Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

What could be more appropriate for springtime than an adventure to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens?  (although, you might want to wait until the snow has melted).  Located in scenic Boothbay, Maine, these gardens reflect the natural landscapes and plants of coastal Maine and demonstrate the rugged, and sometimes wild, beauty of the state.

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The basin in the Vayo Meditation Garden

I visited the Botanical Gardens for the first time a couple of years ago with my mom, my sister, and my (now) husband, and I was charmed and intrigued by the extensive gardens, diverse plant life, the emphasis on education, and the opportunity for exploration.  The Botanical Gardens include their Central Gardens (which are ADA accessible, along with the Visitor Center), the Bibby & Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, a number of other gardens, and a wide variety of hiking and walking trails.

I enjoy gardening, and although I’m not (yet) as skilled or as knowledgeable as my mother, what I liked the most about the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was the variety of plant types, the interest they provided, and the emphasis on those plants that are either native to Maine or grow well there.  Some of my first memories exploring, and truly understanding, the beauty of the Maine wilderness (or, perhaps more accurately, countryside) come from my mother’s work with the Gorham Land Trust – and in particular, protecting the Rhododendron in southern Maine.  Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens features the Giles Rhododendron Garden, and although we were, unfortunately, too early to see these lovely, woody plants in bloom, this perhaps made the greatest impression on me because of its significance for my mom.

The Botanical Gardens also offers their Kitchen Garden Cafe for light fare, a  lovely Rose & Perennial Garden, and, at the time we were there, an entire display on how to plant and grow a wall of plants.  Nick downloaded an audio tour via an app that the Botanical Garden offers, and so we were guided  through the majority of our tour.  We explored quite a bit – going all the way to the waterfall overlook, visiting the Fairy Houses, and touring the Children’s Garden – which delighted us as much as it would a child.

View of the Rose & Perennial Garden

View of the Rose & Perennial Garden

I hope you are able to go and expore this garden that shares the best of coastal, southern Maine.

A view of coastal Maine from a wildlife trail

A view of coastal Maine from a wildlife trail

 


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A little ‘Spring’ in your step

It may not feel much like spring in Maine right now – despite Wednesday, March 20th, being the first official day of spring – after all, the state just received another 10-18 inches of snow, depending on your location, and there’s a potential for more in a storm system next week.  But, spring is here, and with it comes a blog post on spring activities in Maine.

Given the recent snowfall, spring skiing should be at the top of the priority list.  As temperatures start to rise, but the snow in the mountains remains, there are rarely better skiing days.  After bundling up for the slopes all winter, there’s nothing more enjoyable than feeling the sun on your face, wearing a fleece, and whipping down the mountain.  For great spring skiing, check out Sugarloaf USA, Saddleback, Sunday River, and more.

One of my favorite things about Maine is that there are four true seasons – you get a real spring, short summer, real fall, and a long winter – and these transitions bring special activities year round. As spring progresses, activities like hiking, gardening, and attending spring and early summer festivals get you outside and enjoying the warm weather.  Stay tuned for a post this week on the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.  Hiking, biking, and experiencing the great outdoors doesn’t get much better than in Acadia National Park.  Their extensive carriage trails provide manageable options for children and inexperienced cyclists as well as more challenging terrain for those looking for adventure.

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The end of spring, in June, brings a number of festivals that I want to mention briefly.  In June-July, you can celebrate Maine’s maritime tradition with at the Annual Heritage Days in Bath, Maine.  Also in June, the La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival in Biddeford offers an opportunity to celebrate and explore Maine’s Franco-American heritage.

To close on a personal note:

With spring comes mud season in Maine.  I remember describing this to my husband – the melting of the snow and frost, in combination with spring rain, and the results – deep, squishy, dirty mud.  Lots of it.  The defining image of mud season in my mind comes from my childhood – we lived in a white farmhouse at the end of a dead end road – and every spring, the mud would seep up between the walkway stones, making it impossible to venture from the car to the house without your feet being enveloped in it.  And every spring, my parents would set out a series of low, wooden bridges, made of 2-3 planks each, lifted about 4 inches off the ground, so that we could more easily (and cleanly) manuever from the car to the house.  I will remember the clattering noise of feet, planks, and stones all my life, I’m sure – as well as the childhood joy of leaping from set to set, making it more of a game than a walk.

So – may you enjoy the best of springtime in Maine, with mud kept to a minimum!


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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (plus a potato dish)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While I did the bulk of my celebrating yesterday, I wanted to bring you all a brief post on the day itself and a weekly recipe for Scalloped Potatoes.

St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity into Ireland. The shamrock has become a major symbol of Saint Patrick and Saint Patrick’s Day because it is said that he used the 3-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.  Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world with parades and parties, wearing the color green, drinking (sometimes large) amounts of alcohol, feasting, and religious observances.  One thing I hadn’t known is that blue was the original color for Saint Patrick’s Day, but after the shift to green, the celebration of the day took off.

The crowds and the green river at the US National Whitewater Center

The crowds and the green river at the US National Whitewater Center

Yesterday, my friend Lora and I ran a 5K at the US National Whitewater Center in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. During the race, green powder was dumped or thrown on the runners at various points. At the end, most of the left side of my face was green, as was my clothing. Following the run, our husbands and another couple joined us for a day of sitting in the sun, listening to live music by Tim Reynolds, and drinking beer, which included the Whitewater Center turning the water green at 1pm (and, luckily for us, the facility has showers, so we were able to remove MOST of the green powder).

Enjoying a sunny, 70 degree day with good friends in Charlotte, NC.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Enjoying a sunny, 70 degree day with good friends in Charlotte, NC. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

For the weekly recipe, I wanted to share a Scalloped Potatoes dish.  As we’ve established, my Irish and German roots have predisposed me to a love of potatoes, and it doesn’t get much lovelier than potatoes in a creamy cheese sauce.  I took this recipe from Good Maine Food, which is quite literally an encyclopedia on traditional Maine cooking.  I modified it slightly to add cheese and jazz it up a bit.

You’ll need:

4 potatoes

Water

3 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Milk

I added about a 1/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese and a 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan, because I like my scalloped potatoes cheesy.

Sliced potatoes

Sliced potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice potatoes, 1/4 inch thick.  Cover with cold water and boil for 10 minutes.  Drain, and put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of a buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dot with butter, and (if you like the cheese factor), sprinkle some Cheddar, Parmesan, or cheese of your preference in as well.

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Repeat layers, and add enough milk so it appears through the top layer.  I finished this off with another round of Parmesan cheese.  Bake in preheated oven for one hour or until potatoes are soft.  Serves 6.

The finished product!  Yummy scalloped potatoes with salmon.

The finished product! Yummy scalloped potatoes with salmon.

Enjoy!


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Weekly Recipe: Raspberry Slump

I must preface this post by expressing that I am not a pastry chef (no wonder I chose a dessert recipe defined as a ‘slump’ – it sounded like a perfect match!).  However, my dear friends, Emily and Elisabeth, who are in fact pastry chefs at their bakery in northern California (as well as organic farmers, artists, dog whisperers, and raging beauties), requested a dessert be featured in an upcoming Weekly Recipe post.  Being the gracious blogger I am, I chose to grant their request.

This was an eye-opening experience for me.  I really enjoyed the process of baking, which I didn’t expect, as well as the end results (which I did expect).  As mentioned, the raspberry slump seemed to be the most appropriate recipe for me to attempt as a novice baker.  It was very simple, with a total of three sentences of instructions.  First, I’ll provide the recipe as it is listed in Good Maine Food, and second, I’ll elaborate on my personal journey through it.

You’ll need:

  • 1 quart raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk

Serves 6

Wash berries and put in a buttered baking dish; sprinkle with sugar.

Sugared raspberries and batter

Sugared raspberries and batter

Make a smooth batter of remaining ingredients and pour it over the berries.

Batter, drizzled over the berries

Batter, drizzled over the berries

Bake in a moderately hot oven, 375 degrees, 45 minutes.

As I was typing the above, I realized I went very, very wrong with one step in the instructions.  Rather than sprinkling the 1 1/2 cups of sugar on the berries, I sprinkled the 1/4 cup on the berries and mixed the 1 1/2 cups into the batter.  As a result, ‘pouring’ the batter over the berries was not possible.  I spooned it over them, at times violently shaking and banging the spoon to get it to fall onto the berries.  At the time, I was thinking, ‘anyone who thinks you can pour this batter has never made this recipe!’  Now, I realize, the error was all mine.  I will say, though, the batter was DELICIOUS.

Other than that mishap, the recipe was all I anticipated – quick, easy, and in the end, very tasty.  The crust was really crunchy due to the large amount of sugar I mistakenly included, but the flavor was excellent – both tart and sweet.  It also isn’t as pretty as some pastries or desserts, but then, I didn’t expect that of a ‘slump.’  Looks aside, I certainly recommend it to others!

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!


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Mark your calendars… for the Kennebunkport Festival 2013!

For many years, the Maine summer event at the forefront of my mind has been the Yarmouth Clam Festival (which will be July 19th – 21st this year). I loved going as a child, as a teen, and a young adult- but more on that to come.  Recently, Twitter activity (follow me @mainerootsgirl) about the Kennebunkport Festival has piqued my interest – so I did some digging.

The Kennebunkport Festival 2013 is June 4th-8th and is produced by the staff of Maine magazine and Maine Home+Design magazine.  Their intent, per the ‘About’ page, is to showcase the finest of Maine – fine art, fine dining, and fine wine.  Set in charming Kennebunkport, Maine, the festival includes dinners at private residences, special events hosted by restaurants and other venues, art viewings, and live music.  For a full listing of events or to purchase tickets, click here.

Dock Square in Kennebunkport, Maine

Dock Square in Kennebunkport, Maine

Where the Yarmouth Clam Festival has a casual, family-friendly vibe, the Kennebunkport Festival strikes me as an opportunity for adults to explore and enjoy the upscale side of Maine – I envision sundresses and cocktails, oceanside.   And oh, how I wish I could be there!


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In Remembrance: Martha Harris

Martha Harris, a well-loved, lifelong resident of Gorham, Maine, passed away on Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer.  I knew her best for her photography, which was, by all accounts, her passion.  Mine was one of the thousands of high school senior pictures she took, and my memories of her reflect the warm, caring person she was.

When my mother told me of her passing, I felt it was important to take a moment here and recognize her life and how much she meant to, and did for, the people of Gorham.  Although it’s unlikely that many of you, my readers, knew her, you’ve probably known someone like her in the communities you grew up in or live in today.

The American Journal wrote a very touching piece about Martha, which you can read here.  Reading it reminded me of her impact on our community – Martha was an ever-present fixture at Gorham High sporting events, a founding member of the Gorham Times, a board member of the Gorham High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Gorham High Alumni Association, and a volunteer at Baxter Memorial Library.  She made a dedicated effort to honor the history of Gorham, to capture the special spirit of its people, and to document the goings-on of this small town.  Through that effort, she touched the lives of all who reside there.

While much of what I know of her I learned from others, I will never forget how her comforting, open manner put me at ease while she took my senior picture.  She was a very special woman who will be missed, and remembered.

The Portland Press Herald highlighted her life in their feature obituary.