27 September 2008

Maine Food and Lifestyle Blog

I'm always on the look-out for other blogs about Maine. I have a few listed on the sidebar to your right, and of those, there are some that I find myself visiting again and again.

I just discovered this one today:

Maine Food and Lifestyle Blog

This is sure to go on my list of favorites.


Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

24 September 2008

Grand City Variety in Brunswick

I was sad to learn this store will be closing soon.

You can read the story HERE.

Grand City was the first store I visited in Maine when we moved here ten years ago. It was a rainy summer day in Brunswick when we stopped for lunch on our first day in the state. While at Joshua’s Tavern on Maine Street, we spied the little variety store across the street, and when I walked through its doors, I felt like I’d been transported to a happier, simpler time.

Since then, I make a point to visit Grand City every so often. No, it doesn’t have everything you’ll find in Wal-Mart or Target, but it has something those stores don’t. It has charm. The clerks are friendly and might just be your neighbors. And you really never know what you're going to find.

If you want to visit Grand City one last time, make it quick, because sadly, its days are numbered.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

23 September 2008

I’ll take dry land, thanks.

This post is for our friend, John.

Last week we had the privilege of having dinner at a house on Orr’s Island, which was being rented by John’s brother Jerry and his wife, Carol. It was one of those evenings that we all hope for – the weather was fall-perfect, the house was old, charming, and right on the harbor, and the people were a blast. We laughed, we drank wine, we laughed some more, we told stories, we drank more wine, again we laughed… you get the idea.

When we first arrived at the charming little house, the grill was fired up and the steaks were sizzling. Looking past the grill, out over the deck and onto the water, we could see the setting sun. Yes, it was way cool.

Then we went inside to eat – because the lobsters were ready. Here is a photo of what was to come:

And this is where true confessions come in. I can’t eat lobster – not like that. Not with those beady little eyes staring at me, where I have to break open their bodies and take the guts out with a fork, all the while having mysterious liquids dripping everywhere.

Our friend, John, on the other hand, is severely allergic to lobster. He ate two. Yes, we watched his eyes swell and turn red as the evening progressed. Well, that happened to the rest of us, too, but it was the wine, not the lobster.

Let me just say that the steak was delicious and the company was wonderful. It was all good UNTIL… John brought up the subject of this blog…

He told me that he was going to come here to leave a comment and tell the internet that I, a writer with a blog about Maine, do not eat lobster in the traditional way.

I began sputtering about how I like lobster STEW and lobster BISQUE and lobster ROLLS. I really DO like lobster. I just like it already picked out of the carcass. Same thing with steak. I like the beef already taken out of the cow, so I can’t see what the animal used to look like. Is that so bad?

So I’m pre-empting the inevitable and covering my steps in case John decides to make good on his threat.

But now you know the ugly truth – I’m all turf and no surf.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

19 September 2008

Busy Fall

Things have kicked into high gear, in our little part of Maine, so here are a few photos from around our garden...

First, our tomatoes. We have always had a lot of luck with these babies, but late July and early August were so rainy, that the plants got all spindley. Still, the fruit was prolific.

Second, our watermelon. The first photo is a bloom from just last week. And keep in mind that our first freeze was supposed to be last night - or it might happen tonight. Either way, that bloom is WAY late. Maybe the bee just gave up and decided to nap there?

The next watermelon photo shows a picture of our proud melon. Can you see how big and juicy it is? No? That's because it's only the size of a peanut. The package said this was a 90 day plant. We thought that meant 90 days to harvest, not 90 days to the first peanut-sized watermelon of the season.

Last, our flowers. Nothing like a bit of crisp, not-yet-fall air to bring out the best in the flowers.

Have a good weekend, friends.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

11 September 2008


Everyone has a September 11 story. This is mine.

On that fateful day, we awakened to perfect blue skies and a hint of fall in the air - much like today. My children were 14, 8 and 7, and we'd begun our homeschooling day without turning on the TV.

About mid-morning, my mom phoned us. I was screening my calls since we were working, but I heard her voice on the answering machine. She was hysterical and I couldn't understand what she was saying, so I picked up the phone. She was crying and ranting and raving about bombs and war and she told me that the World Trade Center building had fallen. She also said things about the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol Building, and various other places. She told me we'd been attacked. At that moment, I honestly thought my mom had finally cracked up.

When I tried to get sense out of her, she just kept crying and telling me that the World Trade Center building had fallen. Not knowing what had happened, I thought it had fallen over - you know, across Manhattan, or out into the water. She wasn't making any sense, and I just kept asking her what she was talking about. Finally, she told me to turn on the TV. That's when it all became real for me and I saw the devastating reality of what was happening to our country.

Like the rest of America on that terrible morning, I sat stunned, watching helplessly, as the next building fell, as the Pentagon burned, as reports of another plane crash was reported, and as all the air travel in the country was grounded.

After a while, I noticed that my children were huddled up against me, staring wide-eyed at the television screen. They asked many questions, for which I had no answers. I could only hug them and assure them that they were safe there with me, though I had no idea if that was true. It was a terrifying time for our nation, and it changed many things for us. Seven years later, it seems as though it was yesterday.

This morning, before my girls left for school, we looked outside to see an almost identical blue-sky day, and we paused for a moment.

And we remembered.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

09 September 2008


Recently, as would be expected, I've seen many of my favorite blogs talking about the presidential campaign. A long time ago, I decided not to "go there" on this blog. There are places for that, and this isn't it.

However, I read a blog this morning that I really liked, and I had to share it here:

I won't say I agree with this - because I won't go there. But I like it. A lot.

I will say this - if you see me on the street or at the local market, or if you call me on the phone or leave a comment here on my blog, please don't start talking to me as if you and I are in agreement on either of the candidates. We are not - I guarantee it. You can probably just assume that I disagree with you, regardless of who you're voting for. And along that same line, you can also assume that I do agree with you, regardless of who you're voting for. But I won't talk to you about it.

Cryptic? Yes. Bottom line? I won't go there. Both candidates love their country and believe their way is best. I respect that. Yes, I will vote, but last I checked, we still have a secret ballot. Most people seem to resent that, as they slap bumper stickers on their cars declaring who they did or did not vote for.


I just wish we could outlaw the ads that slam the other side. If there was a campaign for that - for stopping the negativity - I'd probably jump on board.

Ok, nuff said.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

07 September 2008


With fall just around the corner, and the impending winter on its heels, we Maine folk should really be taking advantage of every opportunity to be outside when the weather is sunny and mild. Today was one of those days. After the wicked winds and driving rain that swept through last night, we awakened to a mild, beautiful day. The temperature is in the upper 70s and the sky is blue once again.

The thing is, the storm blew through much more quickly than it was supposed to. For the last several days, the weather forecast has shown that it would rain all day on Sunday. All day.

Consequently, the plan for today was to have one of those rare days off; you know, a rainy day when you literally do not get out of your pajamas ALL DAY LONG. Because of the forecast of rain, we planned to sleep in and skip church (yes it WAS a long week), have a late breakfast, and then watch football all day. (Ah yes, I LOVE football season).

When I awakened to sunshine, I sort of had mental whiplash and knew that it would be better to be outside. So I did the most logical thing: I went straight to the basement to my computer, so I could not see the sun streaming through the windows. I went back upstairs only long enough to make pancakes and then it was time for the Patriot's game. Averting my eyes from that sunny window view, I went back to the basement and turned on the TV. I watched until halftime, and then promptly fell asleep on the couch.

Now the afternoon is slipping away and I feel conflicted. I could look at it as a wasted day; if nothing else, I wasted the opportunity to add a bit more color to my quickly-fading tan. I could have gotten some exercise or done (ick) yard work. I could have taken a walk with my kids. I could have done all sorts of things.

But I made a choice.

I do feel rested now, ready to tackle another long week. Not only that - the Patriot's won, in spite of losing Tom Brady to an injury in the first quarter. And most importantly, it is nearly 5:00 p.m. and I am still in my pajamas.

And no, I'm not posting any pictures of that.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

06 September 2008

Another sign of fall

Besides all my moaning about school starting... :)

And by the way, this photo was taken yesterday, when the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Today the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna are moving up the coast and it looks nothing like this.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

04 September 2008

Major Change of Lifestyle

No, we aren't moving away from Maine, we haven't lost employment, nor have we won the lottery. But of those three, I'd certainly take the lottery.

It's this homeschooling thing. Yes, I'm beating a dead horse by bringing this up YET AGAIN, but it's the big news of the year in this household, and it's affecting our lives more than I ever imagined.

I homeschooled my two daughters from the get go, and this week, they began classes at a large public high school. What this means in terms of lifestyle change is that they went from doing school in their pajamas to getting up and dragging a 50 pound backpack off to catch the bus before 7:30 a.m. They went from finishing all their academics for the day before 3:00 p.m. to spending six hours at school and then coming home to several more hours of homework. They went from having lots of personal time, down time and free time to being subjects of the system and breathlessly going on to the next thing.

Needless to say, my two kids are experiencing culture-shock.

Funny how we can still be in our little town in Maine and just go from one small lifestyle to another, only to find that our heads are swirling and we're overwhelmed with life. Yes, I said "we." The kids aren't the only ones who who's heads are spinning.

Why, you ask, should I be overwhelmed? After all, I'm the one who isn't teaching for the first time in twelve years. I'm the one who has all the time in the world now to write and to finish those hundreds of household projects which have been waiting for me in our basement. Plus, I'm not the one who has to navigate the crowded halls of the public high school each day, and all that goes with that. (I do shudder to think of it).

The reality is that I have hardly written anything this week, other than this blog. The reality is that the only project I've finished this week is cleaning the kitchen, which I do every week anyway. And yes, the reality is that I am still teaching.

Wait, what was that last one? How (and why) would I still be teaching when I should be leaving that to the professionals? Because in that respect, really, nothing has changed. The kids go to school, received their assignments, and come home to do them. "But what if I do it wrong?" they ask. "What if they don't like the way I write?" they ask. "What if the teachers realize how little I learned in homeschooling?" they ask.

Yes, they have said that to me more than once. Such little darlings, aren't they? In fact, after their first day, they came home and announced, "Wow, Mom, those teachers know SO MUCH!" Nothing like a big ego trip to help soften the blow.

I spent hours with them tonight encouraging them with their homework. I want to say I "helped" them, but that's not allowed... and really, I didn't help in that way. I just cheered them on and told them they were doing it right. I'm not sure when or where I instilled such paranoia in them, but they are very, very afraid that they will do or say something wrong, thus bringing down the wrath of the teachers onto their poor, little homeschooled selves. I keep telling them how smart they are and they just roll their eyes. After all, what do I know? Those teachers all know SO MUCH more than I do.

Oh, and during my days? I've been returning school things that my kids bought but no longer want, searching out the perfect school supplies (no, two nights at Staples weren't nearly enough) and continuing on the quest for the ellusive, perfect backpack.

So, that's what's going on in my corner of Maine this week. The weather's great (hot even) and there are tiny hints that the leaves are trying to change. School is in session and all is well.

I think.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

03 September 2008

Second First Day of School

Ok, so yesterday, after TWELVE LONG YEARS of homeschooling my children, I sent my youngest (the taller one) off to "real" school and she left without looking back. It was the first day for high school freshmen, and she was psyched to go. I, on the other hand, was nervous. I felt like the mother of a five-year-old who puts her child in kindergarten for the first time. (Actually, I've been there and done that - my oldest DID go to "real" kindergarten, as well as first and second grade, before we brought him back home for school).

All day, I thought of her, of what she must be doing, etc. I love cell phones, because she text messaged me several times during the day to tell me about all the fun she was having. What a relief! But I was still exhausted when she came home at 5 p.m. after sports practice. And I found out then that the day wasn't over yet. As my friend, Tina, reminded me, while my daughter had no homework last night, there was plenty of homework for me. Sheets and sheets of paper that had to be filled out and returned. Today.

Oh, and that's not all. There were also lists and lists of school supplies, which, according to my daughter, HAD to be bought last night. We trucked off to Staples and found that the population of the entire state of Maine had decided to visit OUR local Staples last night. Who'd have thought? If I'd known they were all going to be there, I'd have brought my camera for a big group photo.

I finally collapsed into bed last night, only to wake up this morning to do the whole thing over again. Yes, today is the first day of school for my sophomore daughter. Today is the day the rest of the school gets to go, after giving the freshmen a head start. This daughter isn't quite as psyched about going to school as her younger sister. Mostly because she is not a morning person. Not even a little.

But they got up with smiles and I sent them off on the big yellow bus. Now I get another "first" day of stressing and imagining, and hoping for lots of text messages. And tonight we get to do the paperwork and the Staples thing all over again. Maybe I'll remember to take my camera so we can all do that group shot...

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

02 September 2008

How to Strike Fear in the Heart of a Teen

Ever see Uncle Buck?

This morning, as my daughter was getting ready for her first day of school as a high school freshmen and her first day ever as a student in traditional school, I asked her if she wanted me to walk her to the bus stop.

After the expected eye roll, I told her I could walk with her, hold her hand, and take pictures as she got on the bus. I even suggested going in my pajamas. More eye rolls and chuckling, but I'm sure I saw just a hint of concern in her eyes.

She text messaged me later to let me know she'd made it on the bus and was well on her way to school. So I messaged back and told her I would drive to school (in my pajamas) and give her one more big wave.

She knows I would never do that - but the sick and twisted part of me delights in the fact that there is a small part of her that just isn't entirely sure.

Nothing like an Uncle Buck episode to take away first-day-of-school jitters!

Here's the clip I was referring to...

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

01 September 2008


It's here, but I'm in some big kind of denial.

September means that the sunflowers really are blooming - it's not just an illusion.

September means that the apples will soon be ready to harvest. So soon?

September means that the days are getting shorter and crisper. And the nights colder.

September means that the leaves will soon start to change. Some are already changing.

September means that the brisk autumn breezes are coming. They are already here.

Most noteworthy in my life right now: September means that my two teen girls are going to school for the first time after a life of homeschooling. If we all weren't so excited, I think I'd cry. Maybe I will tomorrow.

For now, I'm pretending it's still August. I don't care what the calendar or the local school says. I just want to go back to the lake and sit in the sun and cover my ears and close my eyes. I'll see my children as little kids without a care in the world. And of course, if I look in the mirror, I'll see a much younger face.

In my fantasy world, August will never end.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes