Still morning in Stonington, Maine

Gray day in Stonington, Maine, with almost no one in sight.

Gray day in Stonington, Maine, with almost no one in sight.

October in Maine offers colorful leaves and paths to lighthouses teeming with tourists, but some days during early morning hours are simply still.  Especially at Stonington.

Lone house in the water: Stonington, Maine

Lone house in the water: Stonington, Maine

One of our favorite places to visit in Maine, Stonington is a working harbor where more than 300 boats bring in some of the biggest lobster hauls in the state.  On any given day in the summer, you can expect to see lobstermen in full swing heaving heavy traps out of boats onto shore and tourists bustling around town, cameras in hand ready to capture shots of the town that time forgot.  It’s the oldness of Stonington that appeals to us — from buildings that have withstood blustery winds and frigid winters for years to the people who work the waters the way their fathers and grandfathers did.

The Opera House dominates the landscape of the town of Stonington, Maine.

The Opera House dominates the landscape of the town of Stonington, Maine.

But on this particular morning, a light fog settled on the landscape, covering both the shore and the waters in pale gray.

Small house in Stonington Harbor on a gray, lonely day.

Small house in Stonington Harbor on a gray, lonely day.

The town of Stonington, usually busy with tourists shopping, eating at restaurants, and being entertained at the Opera House, was empty . . . as were most touristy towns after Columbus Day, the unofficial start of winter in Maine.

This usually busy harbor with no one in sight (shore birds and seagulls excepted) offered only the sounds of frothy waves and flags flapping in the wind.

Empty now, but a busy rental in the summer:  Catbird Seat in Stonington.

Empty now, but a usually busy summer rental right on the harbor: Catbird Seat in Stonington.

Staring back and standing his ground!

Staring back and standing his ground!

We scanned the landscape for color anywhere we could find it — from the red of a life preserver . . .

Gray scene with life preserver:  Stonington harbor.

Gray scene with life preserver: Stonington harbor.

to the gold of lichens (or some such growth) on the banks.

Finding color on a foggy day

Finding color on a foggy day

We counted ourselves lucky to be viewing a wintry scene alone in one of Maine’s most active harbors.

No boaters in sight: Stonington, Maine

No boaters in sight: Stonington, Maine

Weathered but still standing: harbor house in Stonington

Weathered but still standing: harbor house in Stonington

Stonington pier on a gray day

Stonington pier on a gray day

Stonington, Maine:  looking good in any weather!

Have you been to Stonington?  We’d love to know what you think of this lobstering town Down East.

For more information:

Visit Maine has more info on Stonington.  For rentals, check out Island Vacation Rentals.  

For more of our travels in Maine, check out Autumn Down East.

Posted in Autumn Down East, Maine, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

WPC: Variations on a Theme: Island Cottages, St. George Island

Lined up for your island vacation at St. George

It would be hard to miss these island cottages on St. George Island.  On either side of the lighthouse, they stand tall with their backs to the Gulf while winking at passers-by on Gulf Beach Drive.  They may seem like tiny homes (all the rage now on HGTV), but actually, they’re quite large with most boasting 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, and plenty of room for at least 10 occupants.  Ample decking is a bonus if you want to sip coffee and watch the waves roll in.

Palm tree variation and big time yellow!

You might think they’d all be alike. But there are definite variations on this theme of cute, tall, leggy homes vying for a premium space on the sand.  Some vary in color; others in adornments, signage, and palm fronds.

And they’re here for the duration, standing tall in their similarities with a few notable differences. Like little welcomimg ducks in a row, they seem to say, “Come in and stay awhile.  You’ll be glad you did!”

All in a row: cottages lined up in St. George Island

All in a row: St. George Island

To see more entries, go to Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme.

For more information on rentals in St. George Island:

Collins Vacation Rentals, www.CollinsVacationRentals.com

Resort Vacation Propertieswww.resortvacationproperties.com

Posted in Florida, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments

Eclectic, creative, pure fun: the art of Peter Beerits at Nervous Nellie’s

If you’ve seen Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies at tourist destinations and grocery stores all over Maine, you may have thought you’d seen it all.  And in some ways, you have.  Those made-in-small-batches jams cooked in a steam-jacketed kettle using wild Main blueberries stand on their own for quality and taste.  As do their other products — red raspberry jam, blue razz conserve, Sunshine Road marmalade. They offer products you don’t even expect: Joan’s Scones, Maine Wildflower Honey, and Maine Maple Candy.  The list goes on.

In fact, Nervous  Nellie’s stirs up about 40,000 jars of jam a year, and ships out untold cases of products from their small business on Deer Isle.  In their brochure, they say it’s “way off on the edge of things.”

Welcome to Nellieville, Deer Isle, Maine

Welcome to Nellieville, Deer Isle, Maine

But “way off” may have another meaning.  Nervous Nellie’s has what you might never expect to see but what would make you come back in a heartbeat.  Greeting you at the edge of the parking lot is the find of Deer Isle: crazy, fascinating sculpture of Peter Beerits,  who is also the co-owner of Nervous Nellie’s with his wife Anne.

Greeting you to Nervous Nellie's and guarding future art of Peter Beerit's is this Mainer made of parts.

Greeting you at Nervous Nellie’s and guarding bits and pieces of future art for Peter Beerits is this Mainer made of found objects.

You see, Beerits takes parts, lots of parts (like what most people would toss into the trash or recycle bin) and then fashions them into people, dogs, desks, chairs, you name it.

Enjoying the porch are Peter Beerits' lady and dog.

Enjoying the porch are Peter Beerits’ lady and dog.

As if that weren’t enough, he strategically places his found-object folks into Nellieville, the little town that keeps on growing.  Right now, Nellieville is home to a blacksmith shop, bank, school, and garage filled with musicians.  But Beerits admits there’s more — a wizard’s tower perhaps? Opera house? More-or-less bimonthly tours of Nellieville?  No tellin’.

But if a town’s known by its residents, check out the folks of Nellieville.

Clerk? Bookkeeper? Or just silent partner!

Clerk? Bookkeeper? Silent partner?

Gettin' down!

Gettin’ down!

A very proper lady with orange face. "Anyone seen my blush?"

Lady with orange face. “Anyone seen my blush?”

"This is my best side."

“This IS my best side.”

Outdoors, Beerits’ art invades the woods where medieval creatures lie in wait for unsuspecting art lovers. (Ah, so that’s what you do with tire rims!)

Beware of dragons at Nervous Nellie's.

Beware of dragons at Nervous Nellie’s.

With all the musicians in Nellieville, it’s a given you could rotate the featured ones, especially if you don’t care for the music.  But no one here seems to complain. “Play what you like.  We’ll listen.”

So, if you’re visiting Maine, be sure to stop by Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies — not just for fine homemade local-sourced jellies and jams but also for art.

Not your type? Just move on!

Not your type? Just move on!

Or, if you like, park yourself on the porch and talk to the residents who rarely talk back.  Besides, you just might learn a thing or two.

Teacher? Student? Who's learning what?

Teacher? Student? Who’s learning what?

So, ship home a case of Red Raspberry Jam and tour the sculpture of Peter Beerits at the same time? Nervous Nellie’s on Sunshine Road in Deer Isle, Maine.

But don’t bring old rusted-out tools to donate.  Beerits has aplenty.

For more on places we loved in Maine, head to August Down East for our pictures and posts.

As always, thanks for traveling with us — Rusha and Bert

 

Posted in Autumn Down East, Maine, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silence in a Garden

A quiet garden path dappled in morning light invites guests to climb and explore.

A quiet garden path dappled in morning light invites guests to climb and explore.

Although much of the U. S. (especially in the South) is blanketed with snow this week, many of us are dreaming of gardens lush and lovely.  Last spring, in Knoxville, one homeowner opened his garden during the Dogwood Arts Festival garden tour.  It was a chance for those of us who love flora and fauna to stroll quiet pathways and imagine ourselves indulging in nature’s beauty as we paused for a few moments of silence.

Beautiful spring garden in Knoxville, Tennessee offers a silent respite.

Beautiful spring garden in Knoxville, Tennessee offers a silent respite.

A weathered garden bench invites visitors to sit a spell and enjoy the quiet.

A weathered garden bench invites visitors to sit a spell and enjoy the quiet.

More photos reflecting a sense of calm can be seen here: Weekly Photo Challenge: Silence. 

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With renewed appreciation of shots of Bass Harbor Light

Bass Harbor Head Light with its Fixed Red light and 4th Order Fresnel Lens

Bass Harbor Head Light with its Fixed Red light and 4th Order Fresnel Lens.

You can’t fault us.  After all, we had discovered a lovely photo of Bass Harbor Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island, Maine, on a site geared for our granddaughter:  kids.nationalgeographic.com.  It was a lovely scene — classic Maine lighthouse perched atop rocky land facing the ruggedness you come to see when you visit Down East.  But getting that shot?  Well, that’s another story.

The shot we'd love to have:  Bass Harbor Light as seen on National Geographic Kids: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/nature/acadia/#Acadia-lighthouse.jpg

The shot we’d love to have: Bass Harbor Light as seen on National Geographic Kids: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/nature/acadia/#Acadia-lighthouse.jpg

You see, if you head to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse site you find on a map, you land at a nicely paved parking lot.  “Piece of cake,” you say to yourself as you wonder which path to take:  left path or right.

Left Path

If you go left, be prepared to walk downward — way downward — on multiple steep wooden steps and uneven rock ledges.  And sometimes you’ll be body to body with other tourists lumbering just as you are with cameras dangling around their necks.

It's a long climb down the steps to view the Bass Harbor Light above.

It’s a long climb down the steps to view the Bass Harbor Light above.

But oh, there’s more. You need to prepare yourself for rocks. Sharp rocks.  Precariously perched rocks that barely make room for a good toehold.  And it’s at the base of those granite rocks that you may want to pause and pay your respects to all who are struggling as they wonder if perching themselves on the one flat rock they can find will enable them to hoist a leg over a nearby sharp-pointed boulder, steady themselves, and take a photo.  But climb as you must, you still may not get that shot you saw on the internet.

People climbing -- cautiously -- among the rocks, trying to get that perfect shot of Bass Harbor Light.

People climbing — cautiously — among the rocks, trying to get that perfect shot of Bass Harbor Light.

Perched on flat rocks, tourists try to capture Bass Harbor Light without falling!

Perched on flat rocks, tourists try to capture Bass Harbor Light without falling!

Our best shot from the left path?  This sideways glimpse.  Not bad for old people unaccustomed to rock maneuvering, but still not the crisp view of the lighthouse with dawn’s early light behind it.

From the left side:  Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Mount Desert Island.

From the left side: Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Mount Desert Island.

Right Path

Now, if you take the right path out of the parking lot, you’re in for much easier walking.  Stop at the sign that gives you all the goods on this light:

  • Established in 1858
  • Cost of land: $80
  • Cost of buildings $4,983.35
  • Completed in 1876 with fog bell and tower (since removed).

Today, you’ll see the lighthouse with a 4th order Fresnel Lens and Fixed Red light as well as a private residence for a Coast Guard member and his/her family.

It’s from here that you can stand on the level path and have your picture made or take another shot or two of what you came to see:  Bass Harbor Head Light.  

View from the right:  Bass Harbor Light with original bell in foreground.

View from the right: Bass Harbor Light with original bell in foreground.

No matter which way you choose to go — left or right — know that the best photo-ops are probably way beyond the two pathways out of the parking lot.  You may now have the same visions we had:  hale and hearty photographers climbing outward from the wooden steps, looking upward to catch the lighthouse in its entirety surrounded by heaven above and rocky shoreline below.  But we never saw that view.

The best news we have is this:  Bass Harbor Light is one pretty sight to see from any angle.  So, even if you don’t get a view of the whole and even if you’re not Ansel Adams, you can enjoy one of Maine’s storied lighthouses — all for free.

From the rocks:  View of Bass Harbor Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island

From the rocks: View of Bass Harbor Lighthouse on Mount Desert Island

For more beautiful images of Bass Harbor Light, go to:

Posted in Autumn Down East, Maine, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered — The Charm of Monhegan

Weathered is what draws you into Monhegan.  Oh, sure, you want to get away.  To see the island where artists find retreat.  To stroll the pathways to the lighthouse or the rock beach.  Or to steal a picture of Jamie Wyeth’s vacation home.  But it’s weathered that keeps you there, taking pictures and storing up memories.

And if you love peeling paint, decaying wood, and the grays of aging structures, check ’em all out at Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered.

Posted in Autumn Down East, Maine, Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

Shadowplay: Castine, Maine

A stately Colonial almost looks spooky with early morning shadows racing across the facade.

A stately Colonial almost looks spooky with early morning shadows draped across the facade.

Drive in to the small historic town of Castine on the Penobscot Bay, and you’ll notice that this isn’t the typical Maine small town.  Architecture varies from classic clapboard saltbox to stately homes with mansard roofs.  All understandable, you see, since Castine, a town founded in 1613 by a French trader, served as the capital of Acadia from 1670 to 1674.  We’re talking humble abodes to state offices here.

But the one thing you notice even if you’re not into architectural styles is color:  Castine is filled with white structures.  From homes to churches to store fronts, Castine seems mostly whitewashed.

And it’s this pristine look that captures your attention.  Rarely do you see painted houses, log homes, or even weathered barns.  This is a sit-up-and-take-notice kind of white.  Prissy almost — until you get used to it.  And then you can’t help but fall in love with this tucked-away, off-the-beaten-path Sunday best kind of town in the heart of Down East.

Our month-long visit to Castine included pre-dawn walks to the harbor to watch the sun inch upward from beyond the horizon and into the sky, flooding the town with light.

Autumn leaves form a lacy shadow on a home in Castine.

Autumn leaves form a lacy shadow on a home in Castine.

But it was on the way back to our house that we first noticed how direct sunlight — strong, early morning sunlight — with its long light-filled fingers extended into the town forming crisp first-light shadows on the fronts and sides of those white Castine homes.

Sharp, crisp shadow of a tree branch transforms the side of this home during early morning hours.

Sharp, crisp shadow of a tree branch transforms the side of this home during early morning hours.

With the backdrop of an all-white building, shadows found canvases for the post-dawn show in Castine.  Tree branches danced along the facades in fanciful, lengthy patterns.

It almost looks as if someone drew these fancy branches onto this house facing the waterfront.

It almost looks as if someone drew these fancy branches onto this house facing the waterfront.

And sometimes a bit of leaf color crept into the picture adding a lacy effect.

A bit of fall color forms a contrast with the black and white backdrop.

A bit of fall color forms a contrast with the black and white backdrop.

But we couldn’t watch for long.  Shadowplay in Castine was a short, tentative, early-morning show.

A house on Water Street holds shadows for a while as the sun moves upward and over and then out of sight.

A house on Water Street holds shadows for a while as the sun moves upward and over and then out of sight.

And so we chose to celebrate the ephemeral shadow show for what it was. Short-lived but wonderful.  We consoled ourselves with the thought that there would be a replay the next morning.

But there was just one hitch:  We had to get up early to see the show.

Standing tall and elegant and holding onto its stately tall-tree shadow: Abbott School in Castine, Maine.

Standing tall and elegant and holding onto its stately full length shadow: Abbott School in Castine, Maine.

For more photos and stories about our trip to Maine, click on Autumn Down East.

 

Posted in Autumn Down East, Destination, Maine, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Warm up with an heirloom: Swans Island Blankets

 

A simple white chair pulled up by the fireplace holds one of the striped, handwoven pillows from Swans Island Blankets.

A simple white chair pulled up by the fireplace holds one of the striped, handwoven pillows from Swans Island Blankets.

It would have been easy to drive past Swans Island Blankets on Maine’s Route 1.  The brown-shingled house next to a weathered barn doesn’t exactly scream, “Come in and see for yourself.”  But it should.  After all, a simple showroom featuring understated, lovely hand-woven goods is a joy to behold — at least it was for us. No wonder Victoria magazine featured Swans Island Blankets in its October 2017 issue with a story entitled “Wrapped in Tradition.”

That tradition began in 1992 when then-owners John and Caroline Grace found sheep on nearby Swans Island and dreamed of creating soft, lovely blankets using time-honored techniques and the finest of wools — Merino, Romney, Rambouillet. The idea was to operate the business entirely on Swans Island.  But after a few years, the company seemed no longer as profitable as it could be if more visitors could witness first-hand the process of making blankets from hand-dyed wool.

Simple white walls and a Shaker bed form the backdrop for goods made at Swans Island Blankets

Simple white walls and a Shaker bed form the backdrop for goods made at Swans Island Blankets

Today, owners Bill Laurita and Michelle Rose Orne operate the business on busy Route 1 in Northport, Maine, where you can examine the goods and also watch weavers create heirloom blankets that feel and look simply beautiful.

Classic patterns: Swans Island Blankets

Classic patterns: Swans Island Blankets

In the largest showroom of the brown country house, blankets hang on wooden poles against clean, white walls.  A simple block logo, also handmade, identifies each piece.

Simple displays of Swans Island Blankets invite visitors to touch and feel the hand-woven goods.

Simple displays of Swans Island Blankets invite visitors to touch and feel the hand-woven goods.

In the last few years, the company has expanded to include woven pillows, scrunchy turtleneck sweaters, scarves, and other fine goods for home decor and personal wear.

Sweaters, scarves and more are now on sale at Swans Island Blankets in Northport, Maine.

Sweaters, scarves and more are now on sale at Swans Island Blankets in Northport, Maine.

According to the Swans Island Blankets website, only natural dyes like indigo, cochineal, and madder root are used in the one-man dying operation in Northport, Maine.  But visitors aren’t allowed to watch that process.

Colorful, hand-dyed yarn for sale at Swans Island Blankets

Colorful, hand-dyed yarn for sale at Swans Island Blankets

What we got instead was a glimpse of weavers in action in the back room where the din of shuttles slamming back and forth methodically woke us up to the realities of hand weaving and the creation of goods one at a time the old-fashioned way.

That background tour of the weaving room made re-examining the goods in the show room a priority.  We looked even more closely afterwards at the woven strands and the simple, classic designs.  No wonder Swans Island Blankets are called heirlooms.

Simple designs, fine workmanship, and a simple hand-woven logo: Swans Island Blankets

Simple designs, fine workmanship, and a simple hand-woven logo: Swans Island Blankets

If you pass by the faded red barn boasting the Swans Island Blankets sign on Route 1 near Northport thinking that this is just another farm, make a U-turn as soon as you can.  It’s not every day you can touch, feel and see fine woolen blankets woven on site.  If you’re fortunate to own one of these blankets, wrap up in it often.  It’s a reminder that there really are people creating quality goods one piece at a time.

Posted in Autumn Down East, Maine, Retail Shops, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

One love, one life: Celebrating 50 years together

 

Dating:  ATO party in 1967.

Dating: ATO party in 1967.

Celebrating 50 years of marriage.

Interesting, romantic, friendly.  Sometimes up. Sometimes down.

Mostly glorious, but always real.

“Still lovin’ after all these years!”

Standing atop Mt. Battie in Camden, Maine -- celebrating 50 years of marriage!

Standing atop Mt. Battie in Camden, Maine — celebrating 50 years of marriage!

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Merry Christmas 2017

The glory of a beautifully decorated tree:  New York Public Library!

The glory of a beautifully decorated tree: New York Public Library!

Our Christmas wish to you:  May your holidays be filled with family and friends and all the joys of the season.

And just for fun, we’re adding a few 2015 photos we took  in New York City where twinkling store windows, festive colors, and people posing in Rockefeller Center made the holiday a little more magical for us!

 

 

 

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