Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!

All of us at the House of Many Cats want to wish you joy in the New Year! May the world get better in 2020.
With love,

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Day of the Dad

It is said that in November the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead grows thin. In Mexico, November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, a festive celebration to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. I admire this tradition, as the taboo of death in American culture makes loss and grief more isolating.

I'm not especially religious, nor do I subscribe to any woo-woo philosophies. Despite efforts to embrace both of those idea sets at different times in my life, my thinking remains pretty firmly evidence-based. That said, no one can say for sure if there is or isn't a next life, and it can be a comfort to think there might be; that out loved ones are not lost to us forever.

My Dad passed on January 1st, 2001, a single day into the new millennium, by some accounting. If time is a dimension, like spatial dimensions, in a way he is not gone, like a person who is spatially out of sight is not gone. Anyway, sometimes I want to talk to him. I can do that anywhere, I suppose; if there is a next world it's unlikely our spirits would be tied to the resting place of our physical bones. Nevertheless, sometimes I go to the Scarborough Marsh, where we scattered his ashes, to visit. I stand on the footbridge and talk. The first few times I felt silly, but it comes more naturally to me now.
I visit a few times a year, kind of randomly; a couple years ago, I did because we were having a solar eclipse, and my dad was blessed with a great intellectual curiosity, and I deeply wished he were there to see it with me. 
It's a beautiful place, never more so than on a sunny day in late autumn, when the colors are gold an
bronze vibrating against the blue sky and water. It's accessible via the old Eastern Road, now a bike/walking trail with entry points at Black Point Road and at Pine Point Road, among several others (it's a pretty long trail, nearly 30 miles from South Portland to Kennebunk.) It's a flat, easy trail - easy to walk or jog, and you can ride a street bike on it, and it takes you through some of the most beautiful landscape in Southern Maine.
Don't let your outdoor activities end in September! Late fall landscapes have an austere beauty all their own, and cooler temps are quite conducive to delightful hikes.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Sometimes you're driving down a road in Maine...

...and the cars ahead swerve out of their lane, but you can't see anything in the road. When you get up there, you see why: a snapping turtle is trying to cross!

This happened to us on Saturday. I find them to be fearsome beasts; luckily Doug is braver than I & gave this grande dame a lift across the road. If there was any doubt where the name comes from, it became very obvious, as she tried her damndest to bite his fingers off. He lifted her by placing his hands as far back on her shell as possible, just forward of her hind legs, and still she almost got him.

Once safely across the road, she continued to glare (in a dignified way) but stayed long enough for a photo before lumbering away.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Barrens in August

My mom grew up in Cherryfield, a small town Downeast. As she hates when I tell people, she was the Maine Blueberry Queen of 1950! Who even knew there was such a thing.
For the past few years, my husband & I have been spending some time in the area. We reserve an adorable cabin on the Machias River, (gas lights & cooking! I've done plenty of campfire cooking, and while I wouldn't rule it out in future, I do like my camping on easy mode.) The way passes through miles of blueberry barrens, the late-season red foliage of which gives the town of Cherryfield its name.
These are wild blueberries, the fruit small & intensely flavorful, which grow nowhere so well as the Downeast region of Maine. They are not to be confused with their high-bush cousins, the fat berries you see in the supermarket.
(Free opinion: it is a waste of good blueberries to put them in a pie, full of cornstarch & sugar. It renders them gloppy and the flavor insipid, and also turns your teeth purple.Pancakes, yes; muffin, yes; yogurt and salads and cream cheese, yes; by the handful YES PLEASE.)

The soil of the barrens is a highly acidic thin layer over ledge. It's called a "barrens" because not much except the very low-growing wild blueberries can thrive there. The proximity of the Atlantic keeps the air humid, which helps the shallow-rooted plants survive. The image above is in mid-August, during the picking season. The bushes that have not yet been harvested are heavy with fruit. I imagine this place before colonization, what a blessing this wild abundance must have been, and just below it, Wigwam Falls, popping with Atlantic Salmon, back in the day. (Atlantic Salmon are far rarer now, but there are groups working on their restoration - the Downeast Salmon Federation has a hatchery in East Machias where they raise salmon the the parr stage and then release them into Maine rivers - salmon return to their home rivers to spawn.)

Here's my favorite blueberry recipe:

Blueberry-Banana Smoothie

In blender:
3/4 cup wild Maine blueberries
1/2 banana, frozen
3/4 cup orange juice
Quick shake of nutmeg

Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Label Looking for its Craft Brew

My husband Doug is a man of many talents. Just lately he's been teaching himself to paint! After finishing one he commented that it looks like a craft-beer label...so I tried it on. I put it though a couple of processes in Picasa, Google's now-retired image manipulating software. And you know what? He's right! It would make a great craft-beer label! And, conveniently, Maine is the craft-beer capital of the world. The river in the image is the Presumpscot, that divides Portland from Falmouth. There is no Presumpscot Brewing, yet, but when there is, we're ready for them!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The View From Black Mountain

Summit view
When you're self-employed, there are no set bounds on your working hours. As a result, you can find yourself just always working. In October the year I turned 50 I realized I had let an entire, precious Maine summer go by without a single outdoor adventure.
To avoid a repeat, my husband and I started a tradition: we will plan something fun together for his birthday, in mid-July; our anniversary, at the end of July; and for my birthday, in August. We might have more, but we never have less than three summer-fun days.

For Doug's birthday, he wanted to hike black mountain, to examine the exposed ledge at the summit for beryl crystals. I can't say I recommend this hike,
Doug, trudging to the summit
unless you, too, are interested in Maine minerals; it's a very steep round-stone road, and not especially pretty. The view from the top, though: that was amazing.

Didn't see much wildlife, surprisingly - not even birds, except two very startled - and startling - partridges. Well - and a lot of deer flies, and some weird looking shiny-black flies, wide as AMC Pacers. I think maybe they were tachinid flies? Pretty freaky looking, anyway.

Black Mountain is home to one of Maine's icons, however - we didn't encounter a moose but we saw clear evidence they had been there: 

The walk down was, unsurprisingly, more pleasant. Here's a view of Roxbury pond, seen coming down the mountain:

We finished the day with a stop at Rowe's Afternoon Delite, a classic Maine roadside stand for burgers & onion rings. I wanted scallops but they only take cash! There's a sign saying where they nearest ATMs are but honestly I didn't want scallops that badly, so I settled.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Belfast Arts in the Park

Looking for something do to this weekend? Maybe a visit to Belfast, Maine, is just what the potter ordered! On any given weekend, Belfast is a nice day trip - it's a working and recreational port, with lots of great shopping, not to mention eating & drinking. This weekend, though: this weekend is Belfast Arts in the Park! Over 100 makers of craft and fine art will be showing in the waterfront park, with live music daily and unique food offerings.

Make sure you visit Booth 111! That's me, Fine Mess Pottery! This will be my first time at this event & I am so excited to be there! Some other faves:

Lori Austill Encaustic Paintings
Lacey Goodrich
Jody Johnstone

Check out the map here. See you in Belfast!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Where the Road Took Me: Tandem Glass Gallery & Studio

Yesterday was a glorious day in Maine - sunny and dry, mid-70s. It was a fine day for a little road trip, and I happened to have one on my list: I needed to deliver pots to a new shop in Wiscasset, Mid-Coast Craft. More about them later! Today I want to tell you about my unexpected find.

It being said glorious day, and me in no hurry, I planned to stop at the numerous yard sales one always finds on Route 27 between Augusta and Wiscasset on a fine summer Saturday. The first sign I saw pointed the way down 127, which runs between Dresden and Woolwich (pronounced wool-itch, which always makes me laugh, as wool usually does itch.)

I was surprised to discover the advertised sale was at this amazing glass blowing studio, Tandem Glass. The upper floors arr living space, the lower is studio and gallery. I was immediately hit with a pang of jealousy. Look, there's even a outbuilding which would make a stellar kiln shed! I wouldn't want to mow all that lawn, though.

Inside was even more amazing: a sunlit gallery space glittering with beautiful handblown glass:

And the studio! I admit I am a sucker for a tidy studio - I should probably keep my own cleaner. The furnaces were cool the day I was there. And look at the enticing rack of canes! Materials are inspirational, all on their own.

It's maybe a mile - no more than that - off 27 in Dresden. Worth a trip! 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Coming Soon to the East End: Cocktail Mary

The Future Home of Cocktail Mary

The head bartender at Izakaya Minato plans to open a cocktail lounge on Congress Street in Portland’s East End.
Isaac MacDougal has applied for a license to open Cocktail Mary at 229 Congress St., the former location of Ramen Suzukiya, a noodle shop that closed last fall after the owner died. In a letter accompanying his liquor license application, MacDougal noted that though some restaurants in the East End serve cocktails, that part of town does not yet have a cocktail bar.
MacDougal cited his experience working as a bartender or manager in Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City, and pointed out that his family ran the now-closed Vaughan Street Variety, a sandwich shop on Portland’s West End, since 1995.
MacDougal’s target opening date is June 1.

Isaac, he of the bright blue yes and perpetual charm, is our fave bartender at our current fave East End eatery. We're excited to support his new venture!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Maine Pottery Tour is just around the corner!

Possibly my favorite sign of spring! This year the pottery tour has 37 studios, from Kittery to Swanville to Phillips. The Maine Pottery Tour offers demonstrations and giveaways, a chance to meet the artists, shop for handmade pottery, and get a glimpse into life as a potter in Maine. You can even try the wheel yourself at some locations or paint a plate of your own.

What: The Maine Pottery Tour, a celebration of ceramic arts in Maine
When: Saturday May 4th, 10-5
            Sunday May 5th, 11 -4

Where: 37 Locations in Maine! 

In Central Maine, there are 13 tour destinations:

Fine Mess Pottery 131 Cony St, Augusta
Red Door Pottery, 14 North Pearl St, Augusta
Hallowell Clay Works 157 Water St, Hallowell
The Potters House 82 Stevenstown Rd, Litchfield
The Potter’s Shed 605 Hallowell-Litchfield Rd West Gardiner
d harwood Pottery 196D Main St, Winthrop
Maple Lane Pottery, 36 Greeley Rd, Windsor
Loken Pottery 26 Bowman St, Farmingdale
Whitefield Pottery 442 Howe Rd, Whitefield
Rob Sieminski Bog Pond Rd, Phillips
Martha Grover & Josh Rysted 630 West Bethel Rd, Bethel
Tim Fischer Pottery 394 Ridge Rd Lisbon
Barbara Walch Pottery 33 Knox Station Rd, Thorndike

On the Coastal leg of the Tour, there are 11 stops:

Chouinard Ceramics, 75 Main St, Wiscasset
Al Scovern/West Third Ceramics, 108 Congress St, Belfast
Van Der Ven Studios 257 Main St, Lincolnville
Fireside Pottery 1478 Camden Rd, Warren
Neighborhood Clay & Liz Proffetty Ceramics 590 Maine St, Damariscotta
Jody Johnstone Pottery, 135 Webster Rd, Swanville
Barbara Walch Pottery, 33 Knox Station Rd, Thorndike
Good Land Pottery, 487 Morese Rd, Montville
Pottery Farm 943 Belfast Rd, Knox
Everyday Pottery 103 Northport Rd, Belmont
Prescott Hill Pottery 261 Prescott Hill Rd, Liberty 

In Southern Maine, 13 studios are participating:

Zwellyn Pottery 20 Spencer Ln, Limington
Wendy Twitchell Porcelain 232 Beachwood Ave, Kennebunkport
Pottery Girl 1104 Pequawket Tr, Standish
Portland Pottery 118 Washington Ave, Portland
Homeport Pottery 131 Beachwood Ave, Kennebunkport
Peeper Pond Studios, 18 Mast Rd, Scarborough
Chris Davis Pottery 81 Seabury Rd, York
Shannon Wong Pottery 59 St George St, Portland
Delany Arts, 20 Center St, Yarmouth
Southern Maine Clay Guild, 22 Government Ave, Kittery
Ash Cove Pottery, 75 Ash Cove Rd, Harpswell
Ocean Fire Pottery, 23 Woodbridge Rd, York
Chase’s Garage, 16 Main St, York

Sunday, April 7, 2019

First Crocuses, 2019

Spring is late this year! I'm a little surprised, because we didn't have an especially hard winter, although notably absent were the random warm days in January or late February. It was consistently winter-cold, nothing approximating a brief thaw.

Maybe that's why my crocuses are slow out of the gate! The popped their little green heads up about 3 weeks ago, but have made little progress since.

Come on, guys! We're all rootin for ya.