31 July 2014

Estes Lobster House - Harpswell, Maine

Having the last name, Estes, has been interesting here in Maine.

We came from out west where our name does not have the long E at the end. It rhymes with Festus. Or asbestos.

Imagine our chagrin when everyone on the East Coast pronounced our name Esteeez. At first we resisted. Years passed and we got used to it. But when my husband's parents and aunt and uncle came for a visit and wanted to go to Estes Lobster House in Harpswell, because of the name, I had to laugh.

Mainers call it Esteeez Lobster House. We call is Estus (rhyming with asbestos) Lobster House.

Doesn't really matter in the end. The weather and food were perfect, and when you're dining on an outdoor patio having lobster in the summertime in Maine, does anything else really matter?

Here are my husband's Aunt Peggy and Uncle Neal under the sign bearing their name. By the way, I absolutely adore this couple. They are from Texas so we hardly ever see them (once every few years) but when we do, it is such a treat. They entertained us with stories of their cats who have names like Willie Nelson, Petunia, and the Pirate of Love. Neal and Peggy are hilarious and fun and we want to adopt them and keep them for our very own. Cats optional.

It was the perfect evening for dinner outdoors...

My husband's dad and brother are sitting together. See the resemblance? :)

Lobster Stew - Oh God, the best thing on the PLANET.

We watched the sunset and talked until it got dark. Then we took the long, winding road back to town and to reality. But wow, what an evening.

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

26 July 2014

Breathing It In

The magnificence of the season’s greenery encircles me and I drink it in like one preparing to embark on a trek across a barren wasteland. Such is my mindset living here in Maine.

Summertime is lush, sweet, fragrant, colorful, pleasant. Birds chitter, waves crash, blooming flowers reach heavenward, and the underbrush hums with life. Squealing children, lathered in coconut scented sunscreen, skip, dance, chase, laugh, and frolic on beaches, in parks, and at lakeside piers. Squirrels scurry and chipmunks worry over stockpiling enough sustenance for the distant winter.

It still seems far away in late July.

The people too, prepare in their own ways. We stack firewood, save our dollars to fill oil tanks, buy coats and flannel sheets on sale. Savoring the colors, scents, and sounds, we must also must work, toil, live. Long days and open windows delight us, but with a tiny shred of panic hidden deep in our souls.

In June, we are free, drinking deep of the summer, flinging off the shackles of boots and gloves in exchange for flip flops and smiles. In July, we wave our flags and fill the beaches and lakes with our glee. And then in mid-to-late July, when August waits nearby and schools supplies edge in on store shelves and the days grow infinitesimally shorter, we feel it – that frantic need to guzzle rather than sip.

“Summer is half over,” we exclaim as tomatoes grow large and lilies begin to fade ever so slightly. “Must go to the beach again this week, not many more opportunities.” “School is just around the corner.” “Let’s have dinner out on the porch again tonight.”

So I drink; often and hungrily. Not only the fruity sangrias and icy margaritas of this warm season, but rather, the time. The beauty. The peace. If it is possible to desperately take hold of the joy that is our fleeting Maine summer, I do.

As chipmunks search and hummingbirds dart, an hour in a lawn chair soothes. Breathing it in for a few moments each day hydrates my soul enough to – hopefully – keep it alive during the long trek through an unavoidable desert of wintertime.

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

19 July 2014

More Maine Backyard Birds

Look what we saw today while enjoying a quiet Saturday...

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

18 July 2014

Popham Beach, Maine

This week we discovered that Popham Beach has changed.

Over the years it has moved and shifted and even shrunk a bit due to the storms, tides, and other occurrences. Not only that, the tide was lower than I'd ever seen it. People were walking on sandbars out in the ocean that weren't there a few weeks ago

Beautiful as always, the changes only enhanced what is always a magical place!

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

10 July 2014

The Birds and the... Grown-Up Kids

For several years now, my husband has been coaxing the woodland birds and animals into our back yard.

Multiple bird feeders hang on poles protected by squirrel baffles, so the squirrels don't eat all the bird seed (and/or break the bird feeders). But have no fear - the squirrels and chipmunks are well-fed too, as we put food for them in small bowls around the yard.

And we wonder why the squirrels ate all our tulips a couple of months ago. Ah well, they leave most of the flowery buffet alone, so I guess we can't complain too much. Besides, we INVITE them here with all the food.


A whole plethora of birds visits our yard. Blue jays, chickadees, robins, sparrows, finches, titmice (titmouses? titmeeses?), warblers, hummingbirds, phoebes, and various others that aren't as exciting, like grackles, crows, and doves.

For us, the biggest thrills have been the woodpeckers and the cardinals.

The cardinal couple is elusive and shy, but the woodpeckers have all but taken over the place. And there isn't just one variety. Daily, we see downy woodpeckers and their larger cousins, the hairy woodpeckers, all of which love to visit our suet cages.

They seem to have a pattern to their madness. First we'll see (or usually hear) them on a nearby tree at the edge of our lawn. Their chirp is single and loud, much like a chipmunk chirp. After a few chirps, they swoop to the suet and set the cage swinging. Like the jays, they don't seem to mind flapping and making a racket as they arrive, while many of the other birds are more subtle. Especially the cardinals.

For years now, we've enjoyed watching these proud, funny, confident birds, and over the years, they seem to have gotten more used to our presence. Sometimes if we have to walk right past where they're feeding, they'll fly to the nearest tree and fuss at us until we're gone, but more often than not, they just ignore us.

So this year, about a week ago, I was sitting at my desk like I am now, facing one of the back windows. Just outside the window is one of the suet cages, not ten feet from where I sit. I heard a woodpecker chirping so I looked up and watched as a downy swooped in and all but crashed into the pole holding the suet. It held on to the pole and slid down to the squirrel baffle, where it then fell to the ground. After much flapping and chaos, it flew back up and managed to grab the suet this time.

The next day, I saw a similar sight, but this time with two half-witted woodpeckers. Both seemed comfortable flying, but the landing process still needed work. This is when I realized they were probably babies that had recently left the nest.

We kept our eyes open for them over the weekend and sure enough, they were all over the yard, chirping and running into each other and failing at landing, and having many near misses with trees, bushes, and even the house.

Then yesterday I glanced out the window to see not two but THREE woodpeckers all hanging on the suet cage. Another baby? No, this time, one very calm woodpecker was plucking pieces off the suet and putting it in the mouths of the grown babies. Ah yes, Mom to the rescue.

It was a precious site - to see those two young ones huddling around their mother waiting to be fed, even though it was clear they were big enough to fly and feed themselves. She was so patient. And unselfish.

My first thought was, "Aww, she trusts us! She raised her babies in OUR YARD!" But then I realized it just happens to be where she lives and where a reliable food source can be found.

It reminded me of conversations I have with friends who, like me, have grown children, or children in college or just finishing high school. They are as big as we are, if not bigger, and they can drive, work, vote, and pretty much do all the things we do. Yet they often live with us and expect us to feed them and care for them just as we did when they were small.

I suppose growing up isn't easy for anyone; mother, father, grown-up child, or woodpecker!

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

08 July 2014

Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day

Today was one of those long summer days we always think we're going to have several of, as soon as the snow melts. But in reality, we have work and children and homes and lives and those long, lingering days in the sunshine rarely happen unless we schedule them in.

Like a vacation.

On this day, all the stars were in alignment for a small group of friends to spend many sunny hours at Popham Beach, and then wrap up the perfect day with dinner at Holbrooks, in Cundy's Harbor.

We wish you'd been there with us. And as crowded as the beach became as the day wore on, in all actuality, you probably were!

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

07 July 2014

Red, white, and...

The fourth of July was sort of a bust this year. I mean that is, if you like perfect blue skies.

I'm ashamed to admit it, though if you've read this blog for any amount of time, by now you know - we are fair-weather partiers. Fair-weather parade-goers. Fair-weather-pretty-much-anything-ers.

In the wintertime, we'll only go skiing if it's not too windy, not too terribly cold, and if by some miracle we don't think the slopes and lift lines will be terribly crowded. In other words, we don't go skiing on holidays. Or in more other words - we don't go skiing often.

In the fall, we rarely do leaf-peeping drives through the mountains and countryside; that is, unless we actually have somewhere we have to go. I mean, we have amazing foliage right in our neighborhood, so why fight all that traffic?

And in the summertime, we're just as bad. Air shows? We can see most of what they do from the local high school football field... or even just by walking down the road to the nearest field. Parades? Only if it's a small town parade and the weather is nice and we get there before they close the roads. Large masses of humanity? Forget it.

Too hot? We can think of better things to do in that heat - things that involve air-conditioning. Or a pool.

Rain? Why bother?

And yes, it's probably because our kids are now grown and we've DONE ALL THOSE THINGS.

Years ago, we trudged along with the tourists at the pumpkin farms. We chaperoned youth group ski trips on the weekends when the lift lines were a mile long and there was never a spare chair in the lodge. We dragged our kids through the heat and humidity for a glimpse at America on parade.

When and if we become grandparents, I'm sure we'll bite the bullet and do it again. But for now...

THIS is what our Fourth of July looked like.

1. Hurricane Arthur paid us a visit on Friday afternoon and evening. Sure, maybe the rain didn't really get going until after the parade had ended, but it LOOKED like rain all day, so we stayed in and blamed it on the storm.

2.On Saturday, we slept in - something we rarely ever do anymore. And that afternoon, we grilled the steaks we'd planned to grill on The Fourth - the same day we'd half-heartedly planned to have people over, but worried that the weather might not cooperate. NAILED IT!

3. I should add that we grilled steaks outside, ate outside, and stayed out there all evening. Then we lit our new fire pit and thought about all the folks who were rushing out to see fireworks that evening - fireworks that had been cancelled the night before.

4. Sunday was a carbon copy of Saturday, except that we went to church that morning. But after church, we planted ourselves on the patio with books and music, and warmed up leftover food from the day before. Most of our backyard flowers are in bloom and we figured the fireworks (that we skipped yet again on Sunday night) couldn't be nearly as pretty. Plus, added bonus, our backyard was way less crowded! :)

Some photos from the day, including our elusive cardinal that showed himself a LOT this weekend!

The thing is, I don't need parades and festivals and crowds to make me feel patriotic. Having my hard-working family sitting at home around the backyard we've been working on for 16 years - that makes me incredibly thankful and celebratory about the freedoms we enjoy.


Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes

01 July 2014

Sunny Brunswick, Maine

Recently, a friend and I went to Brunswick for a very quick trip to the Farmer's Market on the Brunswick Mall.

But as we stopped at a bank drive-thru to make a deposit, her car stalled out.

In the drive-thru.

So, blocking traffic, we waited there for AAA to arrive and give her a jump start.

While waiting, we realized it was too nice a day to be busy. In fact, it was such a nice day that we blew off all our errands and work at home, and before we went to the farmer's market, we parked ourselves on the patio of Wild Oat's Bakery and had a leisurely lunch.

Afterward, we walked over to the market and bought what we needed, but we didn't rush. We lingered.

Most days we don't have the luxury of lingering.

But on a sunny summer day when the tourists and sun are out in force, sometimes plans just need to be changed.

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes