Bayside

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Following my own advice to “explore just outside your front door,” last week was devoted to poking around the peninsulas of mid-coast Maine. Hitting what’s been the best weather of the year so far, it’s easy to love this area … sunshine or not. But sunshine we had and I’m here to report on one of my favorite places anywhere.

I learned about Bayside years ago, when my husband and I traveled the coast and happened to hear about it from a local. It isn’t marked on the main road; we were simply advised to turn at the Mexican restaurant and follow the road to the water. We did, we followed, we discovered. This is a charming little piece of the history of Maine.

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Bayside was founded in 1849 by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Maine.  The first purchase of land was only 25 acres; the intent of the church was to have a summer recreational area where they could gather once a year for worship and spend time socially in this beautiful area of Penobscot Bay.  And for 25 years these pioneer churchmen and farmers pitched their tents under the oaks and birches and worshipped God with sermons, songs and old fashioned religious fervor.

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As years passed, the tents gradually gave way to wooden cottages, the first being built in 1869.  In 1875 the Wesleyan Grove House was built, launching the campground to its fate as a summer resort in addition to its religious mission. Building lots were being sold at prices from $5 to $15 and more acreage was being purchased all the time. By the end of 1879, 40 cottages had been built – ultimately over 300 cottages were constructed and most of them are still here today.

By the 1880s Bayside was in full swing as a summer resort.  Steamships came from as far away as Boston.  One report mentions as many as seven steamers coming to the landing dock (still here today) in a single day.  The report goes on to say that “250 Hampden belles and their beaux came down Tuesday on the steamer Clifford.”  Bayside was the place to be!

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In the 1890’s more cottages had been built along with several retail shops to handle the needs of hundreds of visitors.  This was the era of clam bakes, picnics, hay rides, firemen’s musters, band concerts and excursions.  The first hotel had burned down but a new and larger one was put up.  Even a bowling alley was constructed, along with parks, a ball field, and tennis courts.

The glory of the late 1800’s is no longer present in Bayside, but the character of that old community still lies in the architecture and the people who come here year after year.  Many cottages have been owned by the same families for generations and there is a strong community involvement by those owners to keep Bayside as a place preserved in time.

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While wandering the quiet, narrow roads we met a man walking his dog who described his experience living here. In 1989 he bought his cottage for $5800; today it’s worth approximately $400,000 even though it’s on a 60×60′ lot. The original structure had a basement that was hand-dug, the cottage wide open, and you had to go outside for a toilet, but it had a wonderful old parlor stove, double mantel, and nice woodwork. Over the years he and his wife fixed it up; talking to us he lamented the taxes and the snowplow driver (who he claimed hated Bayside) but did show pride in the fact that his cottage was one of the nicest.

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What Bayside offers today are walks along the shore roads, with loons swimming nearby and the occasional seal looking for breakfast. Sailboats moored on the bay offer a beautiful backdrop to the island in the distance and Blue Hill on the horizon.  On clear days the mountains of Acadia are the distant shadows. Come here to hunt for beach glass. Swing on the swingset. Admire the charming architecture and clever cottage names (“Sqeezed Inn”). Sleep. Rest. Restore. Bayside is rare, untouched, and safe and sound in the 21st century.

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Source: http://www.baysidecottagerentals.com/Bayside

All things maple

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New Hampshire sugar shacks fired up their evaporators this weekend and opened their doors to the public for Maple Weekend 2015. There was a long list of participating sugarhouses throughout the state, so today I chose one not too far from here and took a Sunday drive under brilliant blue skies.

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This particular farm, about an hour away, was set amid a network of dirt roads. They had horses, chickens, two golden retrievers, and the friendliest cat in New Hampshire. The young woman who was boiling the sap said in a good year they do about 125 gallons of syrup, but because of the very cold weather they’ve done just a fraction of that this year. With a window of only 5-6 weeks, losing even one week’s time can put a big dent in the production.

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With the goal of educating the public on how maple syrup runs from tree to table, the process was explained to the onlookers in the sugarhouse and we were offered maple doughnuts, sugar-on-snow, and taste-testing. All were approved!

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Photo Mar 29, 10 56 46 AM (Large)

Now loaded up on sugar, I made my way back to the car and came across the previously mentioned friendly cat. In fact, he was so friendly that after a few head-pats he assumed he could go home with me.

I think not, kitty. Had a heck of a time getting him out of the car.

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The next stop was completely unplanned; I found the next sugarhouse as I was making my way back to the main highway. It was also in a highly unusual place: directly across the street from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway! (I suppose it’s a great spot to be selling maple products to the tens of thousands of tourists who flock here several times a year.) This was actually more of a gift shop, but they were boiling sap in the back room with a huge, shiny-new-looking evaporator. In the front, though, was live music and a crowd of people.

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Photo Mar 29, 11 53 54 AM (Large)

My third stop was our local sugar shack, just around the corner from where I live, and still my favorite. Many generations of the same family have collected and boiled sap off their land here. I stopped for photos only – I love the sight of the hundreds of silver sap buckets hung from the stick-bare trees amid the snow and mud, and the sound of the drip-drip-drip hitting the metal. It’s the classic image of spring (or, as they like to call it here, Mud Season) in New Hampshire.

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So how would I sum up this sunny Sunday?

Sweet.

 

 

Frozen, fabulous February

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On this beautiful, sunny and warm (25 degrees … it’s all relative) Saturday I took a trip to see something I’d been wanting to explore for awhile now: the Alton Bay ice runway on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had only come across it once from the road, and even then hadn’t spent much time. So this morning I drove to the southern end of the lake and …

… this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

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The runway is about 3000′ long and the ice approximately 18″ thick. Dictated by Mother Nature, it is the only FAA-sanctioned ice runway in the lower 48 states.

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Today there were many people – most with cameras – out on the ice with me, watching the planes take off and land. All are small single-engine aircraft. There is no control tower and although there is radio contact with pilots, they pretty much govern themselves. For obvious reasons they cannot use their brakes. Landing on ice can be tricky.

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Volunteers keep this runway operational, plow it after snowstorms, and help with parking the planes. Today was a rare storm-free and windless day, perfect for a fly-in. In addition to the airplanes there were countless snowmobilers, bobhouses, fishermen, and people simply out on the ice walking their dogs. Everyone wanted to be outdoors today.

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Around for more than 30 years, this little wintertime runway brings life to Alton Bay in the dead of winter. Pilots support the businesses in the Bay, and visitors like me flock to watch something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, winter in New Hampshire is long … but while it’s here, its residents sure know how to make the most of it.

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My second favorite

 

Photo Jan 16, 6 33 58 PMWinter is my second favorite season. You can’t beat autumn in New Hampshire, so that’s a no-brainer, and while most people would choose summer next I prefer winter. At this point in the season, though, I’m a little afraid to admit that.

I am probably the only person left in New England who likes winter. Yeah, we’re all winter-weary here, and I’m looking forward to spring as much as anyone else, but you can’t argue with the beauty of the season. I have included some photos here to prove my point, just in case someone pushes back on this.

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Winter here is the stuff of postcards and calendars: fluffy-white drifts of snow covering hills and fields. Curls of woodsmoke coming from chimneys. Centuries-old white architecture made even more beautiful with a frosting of ice. Little white lights in every window, illuminating the dark frigid nights.Photo Feb 10, 6 41 59 PMThen there are the things the postcards don’t tell you … the ice dams that back up on rooftops and allow water to creep into your house. Snowdrifts so high you can’t see around them to turn onto the street. High heating bills. Empty cars running in parking lots, staying warm while their owners shop. Bad hair days from all that dry static electricity in the air.Photo Feb 16, 4 19 43 PMIt’s all just part of living here, though. We know it, expect it, and put up with it, believing that spring can’t possibly be that far away. And when it does arrive it is a feeling like nothing else – new beginnings, new life, something that is looked forward to every year.

So until that day, I am loving this frigid white landscape and thankful that my roof hasn’t collapsed under the weight of two feet of snow. The ice dams haven’t caused any major damage. Yet. The car still reliably starts when it is seventeen below zero. There are no mosquitoes.

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I’m happy when my second favorite season begins. And just as happy when it ends.

It’s right here in black and white

As New Englanders hunker down for the big Blizzard of 2015, with snow measured today in feet and high winds and low visibility, I look out my window and see … black and white. January is like that. Stripped down, raw, bare-bones January. It’s a long, cold month but if it weren’t for January we wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of spring. Winter has a quiet beauty that is, to me, second only to autumn.

Sorting through some old photos I realized I have a nice little collection of black and white photos – though they were unintentional. Color photographs with no color. Silhouettes, snowscapes, patterns and textures. Fun stuff. And I thought I would share here on this snowy, colorless day, watching the snow pile up outside.

London train station detail

London train station detail

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Gravestone, Ireland

Gravestone, Ireland

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Winter in New Hampshire

Winter in New Hampshire

It’s a good day to stay inside and dream up new places to explore in the coming year. New Hampshire is closed today!

 

 

365

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On the eve of each new year I try to choose something new to focus on and learn about in the coming twelve months. This is harder than it sounds. Sometimes I stick with it, and sometimes I don’t. Past picks have been all over the place: jewelry-making, Ireland’s history, how to start a blog. The year of attempting traditional Italian cooking sounded good on paper until I realized that I would also have to eat it; sadly, in the end I figured I did not need the extra pounds. So … some ideas work, and others don’t.

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For 2015 I wanted to do something creative. After days of crossing items off a mental checklist I finally settled on an idea: Instagram. Now, Instagram is nothing new, even to me. I had tried it once before. Social media isn’t really my thing. But Instagram IS photos, and I thought it might be another aspect of photography – however simple – that I should investigate. To up the ante a bit I decided it should be a Project 365 – post a photo a day – on Instagram. Let’s call it Instagram365.

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For the record (and I looked this up) “instagram” is a blend of the words “instant camera” and “telegram.” Photos are confined to a square shape, reminiscent of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images. A bit of a throwback in the midst of 21st-century technology. Not life-changing, but different enough to be fun (I hope).

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Instagram also encourages the use of filters, and this is where the creativity comes in … I have given myself permission to go a little overboard with it, creating images that might not look exactly like what I saw but maybe what I imagine it to be. After all, who cares? This is supposed to be fun. Instagram may not be challenging to learn or use, but my dare is to post something interesting – or at the very least not boring – every day.

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Twelve days in … so far, so good!

Follow me on Instagram

 

Christmas in Seattle

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During my annual December visit home for the holidays this month I was lucky enough to have a friend invite me out for a day of “fun, excitement, and intrigue.” Not knowing exactly what that looked like, I was happy to learn that we were heading for downtown Seattle – it had been years since I’d been there.

Years ago I worked downtown … Boeing had leased a building there and for a couple of years we really had a good thing going. Only 3 blocks from the Market, we were also right in the middle of everything: I remember great used-book stores, fabulous bakeries, the Bon Marche (which is now Macys), Nordstrom and Frederick & Nelson (which is no longer there), lots of good restaurants, and plenty of engineers who drank their lunches and didn’t get much done in the afternoons. I turned 21 in downtown Seattle. For a quiet kid from what was then labeled a “cow town,” it was quite an eye-opener.

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Since my friend works there, she knew her way around – including where to park. We did a little window-shopping, and passed the Fifth Avenue Theater (where my mom and I saw Katharine Hepburn years ago). This month “A Christmas Story” was playing. Eventually we made our way to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (which would have been the Four Seasons when I worked downtown) for lunch.

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She wanted to eat in the Georgian Restaurant, and we made our way through the huge lobby and past the 3500 lb noble fir tree decorated with ornaments the size of light fixtures. The restaurant was European-grand: Italianate architecture, immense crystal-swagged chandeliers, super-high ceilings, columned walls, marble sideboards, and buttercream paint on the walls. The waiters (much to my single friend’s delight) all had accents and were attentive without being overbearing. When we asked one of them for some history of the room, he told us the hotel was built in 1924 and where were we from? It was a little embarrassing to name two just-south-of-Seattle towns. When he practically scolded us for not knowing more about this hotel I said that I had been in New Hampshire for years, as if this were some kind of excuse. He seemed to go along with this, or at least pretended to.

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After lunch we wandered down to the Pike Place Market. This public market has been around since 1907. Originally farmers brought their produce to the city by horse-drawn wagon and by ferry from the nearby islands (one of which I used to live on). Over time arcades were built by a developer who prospered during the Klondike Gold Rush. After World War II the Market fell on hard times and by the 1960s the buildings were slated for demolition; it was saved when a historic district was approved and the market was preserved. Today it was in full swing and decorated for Christmas, and packed with people.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through Westlake Center, past the Macy’s windows decorated with vast model train landscapes, through alleys lined with little shops, and watching the sun set on Puget Sound.

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Shop window

Shop window

Next year's lunch spot!

Next year’s lunch spot!

Today was so much fun we thought we should make this an annual Christmas tradition. I’m all for that – and next time, dear friend, lunch is on me. :)