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Maine 2010

Leave it to the day of a road trip to Maine to mark our one year anniversary for the battery on my alarm clock to die. This is so funny that this happened because I knew I was secretly cursing myself when I told my mother that I have had the same battery in my clock for over 5 years now. The next day it stopped working…good luck, eh? Well anyway my husband did have energy to get up before the sun- now this never happens on a work day, but when it means a lake and fish are in his near future- he can wake up! So the battery incident only put us behind schedule by about 1.5 hours… not that bad because we still left at 5:45 am. Maybe you are wondering why on earth we were planning on leaving at 4am anyway. Well, if you have ever been to Maine, you would know why!

The drive was expected to take about 9.5 hours as quoted by Mapquest and Google directions, but I seriously wonder if they take into account the speed limits along the way before they write these directions or if they strictly go by mileage and an average speed of 60mph. The ride itself was a straight shot across the 401 into Upstate New York going east on Highway 11 around Lake Champlain and picking up Highway 2 across Vermont, New Hampshire, and into Maine. We passed through many scenic, historic towns that were full of charm. Each town was separated by miles of idyllic countryside providing spectacular glimpses of unspoiled land. It was easy to put corporate America aside along this drive as local dining establishments and antique stores were thriving in place of McDonald’s and shopping malls. We passed dozens of roadside vegetable stands, farms, and homemade country craft vendors. The biggest town we went through was Burlington, Vermont which is barely the size of a small New Jersey suburb. After about 5 hours in the car and not even out of New York yet, we were starting to doubt the validity of our directions. We knew there was no way we were going to go completely across 2 states and halfway across another in 4.5 hours. So we just enjoyed the ride for its peacefulness and lack of interstates and arrived at our destination nearly 13 hours after departing.

Once we turned onto South Mountain Drive we were totally at ease and one hundred percent in relaxation mode for 2 whole weeks! The street itself is nothing more than a gravel dirt road lined with wildflowers, ferns and evergreen trees, winding through the hills overlooking Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine. It is gorgeous in itself. Our car twisted and turned down the road and memories from our wedding quickly came back. In July 2009 we got hitched in this very neighborhood with our closest friends and family. Now we are back to celebrate one year as well as Canada Day and the 4th of July!

As we pulled in the driveway, the car was barely in park before we jumped out to say hello to the lake before unpacking our belongings. The cottage was exactly as I remembered it… perfect! After we brought all of our stuff inside, we grabbed a cold beer and headed to the dock to take it all in. It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the loons with their distinctive call, only later to learn that this is actually a cry of distress or endangerment, and the chipmunks and red squirrels scurrying across the yard. Since we were famished after being in the car for so long, we fired up the ole barby and had some beer brats for supper. At supper we thought about all of the possibilities for tomorrow… fishing, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and the list goes on. Where shall we begin? We crashed early so tomorrow could begin sooner than later. Part of the beauty of being lakefront is listening to all of the noises in the night instead of sleeping; hooting owls, crashing waves, bats squeaking, wind blowing, rain drops falling, and mysterious creatures tramping through the leaves below. What potential it leaves for one’s imagination!

A magnificent day greeted us at the crack of dawn with the sun glistening over the lake and nothing but a bright blue sky overhead. I am not sure who jumped out of bed first to take part in its beauty! The morning air was brisk enough to require a sweater for coffee on the dock, but not cold enough for the flip flops to be replaced by shoes. After a pot of coffee, we had a quick breakfast of fresh tomatoes and basil on an English muffin and sliced strawberries. Then we were off.

We loaded up the kayaks with cold water and set off to the Marina. It was time for Bob to get his fishing license so he could catch “Walter.” The pond was quiet and peaceful. The only noises were the occasional boat going by, a seaplane overhead, and birds calling to their mate. We drifted through Purgatory Cove which is an ideal spot for bird watching, as many birds come here to nest and hide from predators. As we floated in, we had to be careful of large rocks above surface level, so as to not crash. The cove was covered with lily pads, that were just about to bloom with a brilliant yellow lotus flower, and other varieties of aquatic plants. We were lucky enough to see an otter swimming across the cove to shore, as well as bullfrogs, loons, turtles, and a variety of small birds. We didn’t stay long because we didn’t want to disturb the peace of the wildlife, so we continued along to the Marina. We were greeted at the Marina by a friendly black lab, who was curious about our boats and our arrival onto shore. We headed inside to buy a fishing license and walked out with a handful of literature about the area as well. Once we got back to our boat, we noticed that it was being inspected by a whole flock of puppies now. I was in heaven as an eight and a half week old Golden Lab and a 3 month old Chocolate Lab playfully ran to my feet to say hello. The puppies frolicked in the sand while we drooled over their cuteness for awhile before we were off to make our way back to the fishing gear.

Bob loaded up the fishing gear while I immersed myself in book #1 for the trip, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks, which is turning out to be light vacation reading material. Once my ADD kicked in, I moved onto a whole stack of cooking magazines and thought about our meals for the next few weeks. We arrived at the onset of the fresh produce season, so I knew we were going to be eating well, especially because the cottage is located only a stone’s throw away from many local farms and in an area with farmer’s markets galore. Now can the patience hold out for Saturday’s Farmer’s Market, being that is only Friday!

There is just something about being at the cottage that makes me drift off into a state of euphoria. The rest of my afternoon and evening was spent making the most of this feeling. At the end of the day, we were able to witness a glorious full moon shining over the lake, slowly being put to bed by a blanket of clouds. What a wonderful ending to a beautiful day.

Morning came again and we were greeted by the glorious sun once again. We brewed a pot of coffee and made our way to the dock to begin our morning entranced by the lake’s calmness and beauty. This morning was a wonderful one for observing the wildlife that makes people return to Maine year after year. A pair of loons swam right up to the dock, less than five feet away from us, an otter paddled by, and a large heron swooped overhead. Along the shoreline, in the rocks, four little animals about the size of a grey squirrel scampered by while intermittently taking a swim in the water. It was so neat, but I am still unsure what they were. What a wonderful start to the day, but too bad I didn’t have my camera!

Mid morning we took a scenic drive down Route 27 in the direction of Farmington to hit up the Farmer’s Market. Farmington is a quaint little town with little shops and cafes. It even had its own moose walking around in boxer shorts! What a job that guy must have. Since it is still early in the season, only about a week ahead of Ontario’s season, there were not many farms representing quite yet. But the ones that were there were good enough for our needs. We picked up some fresh herbs; basil, chives, cilantro, and parsley, because lately I can’t seem to cook any other way than with them. We walked down a few stalls and browsed at the homemade pies, cookies, jams, and honey, until we came to the woman selling garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are still a new vegetable to me, but it was in Maine last year that I fell in love with this vegetable. It is simply the young green that grows during early summer at the top of the garlic plant. Scapes are eaten before the garlic bulb is harvested. They are pungent and full of that garlicky flavor that I love! The most interesting part about scapes is their unique shape- they twist, turn and curly cue. They look marvelous on one’s plate!

Once we returned home, I couldn’t wait to dive into my market goodies and create some delicious food that marked the beginning of summer. I marinated some chicken breasts in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, fresh chopped basil and parsley that would later be put on the grill. With the leftover marinade, I added some black olives and fresh lemon slices to be used as garnish later. I washed the scapes and sautéed them in olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and served them with roasted red pepper hummus that unfortunately was not homemade. But it was organic and since I am on vacation in a cottage with bare essentials I made it work and besides the hummus was fabulous. I think there is no way to go wrong with pureed chick peas, garlic, and roasted red peppers anyway. After the chicken was grilled I placed it on top of the scapes that I arranged on the plate. I topped each chicken breast with a lemon slice and a black olive. On another plate, I prepared some tapas of marinated olives, chick peas, hummus, and crackers. What a delicious, healthy dinner.

Lemon Chicken
Recipe Adapted From: Real Simple Makes: 4 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 TBS chopped fresh basil
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt/ pepper
Kalamata olives
1 lemon sliced

1. Wash chicken and pat dry. Pound into thin slices or butterfly pieces.

2. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs until emulsified.

3. Place chicken into glass pan. Pour 3/4 of the marinade over the chicken and reserve the rest. Cover chicken and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. Turn chicken at least once.

4. Add olives and lemon slices to reserved marinade and refrigerate.

5. Grill chicken over medium heat until done.

6. Top with reserved marinade, olives, and lemon slices.

7. Serve with marinated chick peas, hummus, and grilled garlic scapes.

After dinner we enjoyed yet another moonlit evening over the lake and listened to the creatures of the night come out and enjoy their part of the day.

Awakened by rain pouring down and waves crashing to the shore, I quickly fell back into a peaceful sleep and slept in past sun up. This is rare at the cottage to sleep in except for the occasional rainy days, which are nice too.

After coffee, we enjoyed a nice breakfast of toasted English muffins, cream cheese, tomato slices, red onion, and fresh basil. Simple, yet devine. The rain subsided and we got ambitious. I walked into town to the Belgrade Lakes Farmer’s Market and bought fresh sourdough bread, maple syrup, and lip balm made from bee’s wax. This market had more vendors that the one in Farmington on Saturday. People sold goat cheese, strawberries, sausages, wood crafts, knitted clothing, vegetables, soaps, and the list goes on. The walk home was nice as the sun came out from behind the clouds. I leisurely walked home and photographed the wildflowers and the town before passing Rome Horse farm which was a signal that I was almost home. I collected a bunch of wildflowers for the kitchen counter at the cottage. I am a sucker for fresh flowers especially wildflowers. They are my ultimate favorite.

We decided that we were going to kayak around Hoyt’s Island, which is located across from our cottage. From a distance it looks to be about a mile long and who knows how wide. We packed up some bottles of water and our life vests and headed out to the kayaks.

The water was a little rougher than the past few days, but hardly rough enough to meet the definition of rough in the world of true kayakers. We made our way out into the middle of the channel to cross the lake in a safe way so that fishing boats could easily spot us. We headed around the island staying pretty close to the shoreline when there wasn’t a home and moved further away when we approached a house. We didn’t want to be those spooky kayakers creeping too close to someone’s home..haha. The interesting part of this island is that the only way to get there is by boat so there are no cars on it and supposedly it is without electricity. Although I am in question of that a little since many houses had several lights on during the day and satelitte dishes were installed to bring in tv. Interesting?

The ride around Hoyt’s Island took about three hours, although we did stop fairly frequently to just “float” and to remain hydrated. I did get stuck a few times and almost lost my head to a fallen tree branch but this was mostly due to my less than ideal steering skills. All in the all the trip was a nice way to enjoy a beautiful day and it made us aware that several islands exist in Great Pond that are not visible from our secluded dock. We were very happy to return to our dock and enjoy a cold beer that would not only refresh us but also help to cure our slightly sunburned skin.

After a three plus hour ride, we were starving. Tonight’s menu was going to be simple because we were pretty tired. We fired up the grill and cooked some hamburgers that were made with horseradish and cilantro. While we waited, we ate fresh salsa with tomatoes, red onions, garlic, cilantro and lime juice with toasted corn chips. The burgers were good but I didn’t add enough horse radish to give them the kick I was going for. After supper and a few beers, we had a lazy night of relaxing.

Fresh Salsa
Makes 4 servings

3-4 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pepper, chopped
1-2 TBS chopped cilantro
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper

1. Stir together all ingredients and chill in the refrigerator until cold.
2. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.

The week continued on in a similar fashion full of relaxation, reading, cooking, and taking it easy. The nights and days from here all blended into one so trying to distinguish them from the one before would be very challenging! We did go back to the Lakewood Theater, where we got married a year ago, to celebrate our one year anniversary.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner of Bacon Wrapped Cod with Cilatrano Pesto and Fresh Tomato Quinoa followed by Peach and Strawberry Cheesecake.  We watched a show called Ring of Fire highlighting the life of Johnny Cash.  What a lovely evening.

The family joined us to celebrate the Fourth of July and stayed into the next week. We headed into town to watch the 4th of July parade which was full of small town charm. All of the participants and spectators were dressed from head to toe in red, white, and blue to show their patriotism. The antique cars arrived followed by a group of go-karting middle aged men, children on bicycles, and local environmental groups marched down the street. Representatives from Winterberry Farms also passed through in their antique farm truck tossing handfuls of fresh pea pods at the crowd. Uncle Sam even made his debut. From here we went back to the house for cocktails and dinner before fireworks over the lake. What a super holiday!

The week with the family continued with exciting events such as an authentic Maine lobster dinner (my first ever) and Sailor, our dog, learning how to swim for the first time.  We even had a visit from two pirates from Schuykill Haven, PA.  All in all, it was a wonderful getaway and very much needed.

The ride home was just as scenic as the ride there, except the sun was shining making the ride even more spectacular. I was drifting off into a deep sleep while the hub was driving and I was woken very suddenly by Mr. Brown. I look up and start to panic that something is seriously wrong, however he was just making our trip to Maine complete by pointing out a moose in the meadow alongside the road. What a fantastic site to see! From the loons swimming up to our kayaks no more than 3 feet away from our oars, to the egret landing on our dock, to the family of crown feathered ducks, to the ermines and muskrats, and of course the moose… we had a vacation full of natural wonders. Until next year!

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