Happy Shiny New Year from the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, January 1, 2012, 10:59 a.m. EST, 40 degrees F)


We stood on the bridge at exactly the time of low tide for this first video of the new year. It felt and looked more like April than January. A kayaker paddled up to the beach right off view, then carried his kayak up the hill to the parking lot, joining a group of other people in a festive atmosphere. Loud music played from one of the cars, dogs frolicked, and one woman shimmy-danced with her scarf—I kid you not.
Being the introvert I am, we made the movie then made a quick getaway in our car, anxious to enjoy a more quiet entry into 2012: returning home to bake a pumpkin pie—my daughter’s favorite—for a first-night dessert.

How do you celebrate the new year? Are you more of a quiet baker like me or a shimmy dancer? Or maybe somewhere in between?

Happy New Year!

Julia

Happy Holidays from the Coast of Maine

(Friday, December 23, 2011, 4:11 p.m. EST, 36 degrees F)



Hope you enjoy this last video of 2011, which I’m posting a couple of days early so we can spend Christmas Eve and Day with our family!

Happy Holidays with love from Maine,

Julia & MEH



Deep Blue Cold

(Sunday, December 18, 2011, 1:04 p.m. EST, 24 degrees F)

We’re in the deep chill, with a high today around 24F degrees. With a brisk blowing wind it felt much colder than that while we were standing on the bridge overlook.  There were a few ducks and geese swimming in the frigid water right off the sandbar, but it’s hard to see them in the video because the camera was being buffeted so much by the wind. Although it was cold, the view was incredible—with the intense deep blue color of the water and a set of solo prints on the sandbar—and for the first time ever you can also see the shadow of the bridge.

I hope it’s warmer where you are!

Cheers,

Julia

MEH, the Wild Life, and Me

Charlie II

We live a wild life in Maine. Oh yes we do.

Let me back up. It all started yesterday when I came downstairs and saw a mouse by the toaster. Let me back up even farther. It all really started last year when we trapped and released 51 mice.


Because, here’s the thing. MEH and I—and let me extend that now to our children—do not believe in harming woodland creatures. This extends to insects of all kinds (with exceptions noted below), rodents large and small (including the chipmunk that was loose in our house two years ago), and even scaly animals (yes, that was a snake we found in the downstairs of one of our houses years ago).

So it was this morning we found ourselves transporting Charlie II in the car to be released in the Dog Walk Park. As MEH carried the live trap to the car, I mused:

“Should it be in a bag or something, what if it escapes?”

“It can’t escape.”

“Famous last words…”

This post is not about Charlie II disappearing into the depths of our car. He did not escape.

MEH carries the trap to the car
By now you’re probably wondering: Why Charlie? I can say only this: last year when we trapped (and released) those 51 mice, MEH started to wonder…does this mouse look familiar? So when there was a new mouse in the trap every morning, he’d scrutinize it as he released it. Then he’d come back in the house (yes, in those naïve days we were actually releasing the mouse into the compost pit about 50 feet from our house), and say:

“That mouse looked awfully familiar…”

When our college age daughter came home for break, she suggested something startling. Maybe it really was the same mouse coming back again and again. (For the record, and since this is my blog it is my record, I still believe it was different mice, all those 51, yes. You say naïve, I say denial.)

So this morning, with our first mouse of the season, we decided to play it safe. When we got to the park, MEH carefully carried the trap to the softball field (yes the very one where we feed the crows). He opened the trap. My job was to get the picture as the mouse jumped out of the trap. But of that mouse? All we could see was a tail.

MEH shook the trap. Still only the tail. I took about six photos of a mouse tail sticking out from the internal workings of the trap.

“Really?” MEH said, shaking the trap a little more vigorously.

“Maybe it’s dead,” I said, remembering the years we’ve found dead mice in the traps. I walked away, not willing to take a photo of a dead mouse.

“It’s not dead.” MEH said, now shaking the trap up and down as hard as possible. “Seriously?”

Understand this. MEH may have been slightly enhanced for this blog—to the point of hero status. He does have his fatal flaws, just like all heroes. Patience with mice is not one of his strong suits. This may well be because he’s trapped and released approximately, give or take 7 trillion mice over the course of our marriage. I’m just sayin’.

Five minutes later, MEH pounded the metal trap onto the ground in a valiant attempt to dislodge what now must be a terrified mouse suffering from shaken-baby syndrome. I walked further away, but MEH reported later that the mouse tail vibrated back and forth with every pound. Finally the mouse gave up and jumped from the box to safer havens of winter in Maine. (I should add that this morning was a balmy 50 degrees—although we havereleased mice in subzero weather, Charlie II lucked out.)

Charlie II lives and breathes the good life in Maine. And our wild life is back in nature’s balance. For now.

This was the amazing sky we saw while we were
at the Dog Park releasing Charlie II,
feeding the crows…oh, and walking the dog!
And about those insect exceptions? We do kill mosquitos and house flies and we once killed a Black Widow that was in our then-baby son’s room. Yikes. We only lived in that house for two years although it backed up to a beautiful view of an open field in Colorado and we could hear coyotes howling at night, it was plagued by mice, snakes, and that Black Widow. We never knew what we’d find by the toaster in that place!

Have you had experiences with wildlife in the house?  Or outside? What do you do? For writers: my productivity went down to zippo while focusing on the mouse—although it did give me this blog. What reduces your writing productivity? Have you ever been inspired to write based on a wildlife experience?

Cheers,

Julia

45 Degrees of Separation

(Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:08 a.m. EST, 22 degrees F)

Full moon setting: this photo was taken 45 degrees to
the left of where we stand to shoot the video, toward the mainland

I visit this spot on the bridge (at least) once a week. This morning we arrived at sunrise—at 22 degrees the coldest since we started to record the videos. The beauty was absolutely breathtaking, captivating, magical; so phenomenal that words truly cannot describe. A full moon setting, the subtle pinks rising and reflecting from the water, a flock of Canada geese floating on the water just out of video view.




So beautiful that, after taking the video in the usual direction, I turned the camera about 45 degrees and took another. Now you can see the more intense pinks, the flock of geese congregated and warming up before they take flight.





Despite the frigid temperature, we stood on the bridge for almost ten minutes and then we walked more, in another direction toward another vantage point, to take some still shots toward islands north of us.


When I watched the videos at home, what struck me most was the incredible stillness interrupted by the cars zooming by. I marveled at the fact that the people in those two cars (and others we didn’t record) drove by the stunning beauty without even slowing. And it made me remarkably glad that I started making the videos—so that for at least the time it takes to make the video, I am required to stand and just observe and truly see what I might otherwise pass by. And it made me wonder…..what masterpieces of nature do I drive by or take for granted every day?

Are there places and things you pass by everyday that you never really notice? Are there times you force yourself or take the time to really slow down and see and observe?


Cheers,
Julia 

From Sandbar with Love

(Sunday, December 4, 2011, 11:06 a.m. EST, 45 degrees F)

Last week, after the weekly video showing the astronomical high tide, one of the commenters said this (after two weeks running of high-tide videos): “Dear Sandbar, I miss you. Love, Sara.” Thank you Sara Grambusch for that comment that made me smile! Sara’s a favorite blogger of mine, and you can read her posts here at her blog.

But first,watch the video—I don’t think you’ll be disappointed because even though it’s the beginning of December, at 45 degrees it’s still warm enough to enjoy a walk on the beach. And there are three people and a dog doing just that. And thanks to Sara I made a point of going to the beach overlook at lower tide!

I really enjoyed going out to the island this morning—connected to the mainland via bridge, the one we stand on to make the video. Not only was it beautiful as always, but it was wonderful to get out of the house. I’ve been working long hours editing at the dining room table, and the fresh air and sunshine felt really good.

But more than that, my WIP that I’m in the process of editing, takes place on an island in Maine. Getting out to a spot that is very similar to the one I’m describing in my book is just what I needed. I’m really happy with the progress I’m making, and the story is in the forefront of my mind all the time. That mini-working-vacation on the bridge is just what I needed to keep me on track and give me some writing inspiration.

Hope your writing is going well too—where do you go for inspiration?

Cheers,

Julia

Happy Almost-December (!?) from the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, November 26, 2011, 10:56 a.m. EST, 53 degrees F)

We went to the beach overlook today about 15 minutes before high tide (forecast for 11:11). An astronomical high tide of 11.8 feet was predicted, and I wanted to see what that looked like. (Flood stage in nearby Portland is considered 12 feet.) An astronomical high tide is caused by gravitational pull alone—not meteorological forces like wind or storminess.

As you can see in the video, absolutely none of the sandbar is showing. The small sliver of shore land beach usually there during high tide is not even visible. The video shows the serenity and peacefulness of water and you can hear a few birdsbut the cars on the bridge were omnipresent this morning, and it took us 15 minutes to get this short video clip without car sound in the background!

The weather’s unusual pattern continues. After our Halloween storm, we had a long stretch through November of unseasonably warm weather—receiving no more snow until the day before Thanksgiving. Then, just in time for our family coming home for Thanksgiving, we received another 6 inches of snow. Remarkably, as we made our way down to Boston to pick up our daughter at the airport, the Interstate pavement was dry and snow free within 20 minutes of home! Our travel was uneventful, and her flight was actually early!

Now today and for the week ahead, we have temperatures forecast in the 50s! And the snow is beginning to melt again. Happy Almost-December?!

Meanwhile in the garden, here’s the view we had out our window for our Thanksgiving feast…we are having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you are too!



Things in the Sky

Bonaparte’s Gull











This morning I woke up when it was still dark outside and looked out of the skylight over our bed to an amazing sight: a few wispy clouds drifting by a crescent moon surrounded by some very bright stars.


“Amazing view,” I said to MEH (My Engineer Husband), who was still sleeping because he’s a little less enthusiastic about early mornings than I am.


Nonetheless, MEH had to see. And we looked at the beautiful sky view together.

“A crescent moon, the bright stars, and a satellite,” MEH said sleepily.

“A satellite?” I looked up and saw what looked like a moving star, crossing the sky framed by the skylight window.

“Yeah, I think it’s the Space Station.”

Sure enough, when I looked at NASA’s website, the ISS (International Space Station) crossed over southern Maine at 5:01 a.m., this morning, visible only for 4 minutes. And we happened to see it—what are the odds: a cloudless morning in Maine, we happen to look up through a very small window just for the 4 minutes the ISS is traveling 17,500 mph, about 240 miles from Earth. (By the way, if you’ve never seen the ISS before, check out this NASA website to see when it will be in the skies near you—it’s an amazing and extraordinary experience.)

“Bye guys,” I said to the 6-member crew as the ISS sped from view.

A very exciting way to start the day.

(Sunday, November 20, 2011, 7:04 a.m. EST, 49 degrees F)



Less than two hours later, we stood at our usual bridge overlook to make the weekly beach video, and we witnessed another flying thing we’d never seen before. If you look closely in the video, through the Birch tree on the right, you’ll see a white bird flying close to the water. We’d never seen this bird before, so despite the high tide, we walked down to the water’s edge to get a better view.

When we got home, we compared our photos to our bird books and online resources and discovered we’d seen a first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull. This lovely bird stayed very near shore and let us take as many photos as we wanted to.

Goose, Goose, Goose, Goose, Crow

(Sunday, November 13, 2011, 7:14 a.m. EST, 44 degrees F)




Our lovely stretch of weather continues! And in addition to the lovely scenery, this video provides a rare opportunity to hear the voice behind wordsxo. Yes, at about 37 seconds into the video, I have a very brief conversation with a passer-by, and you cannot avoid hearing my voice. 
“Pepper Pete” in better days.

Aside from this novelty, primarily geese and ducks dominate this week’s video! Also—more notably to MEH (My Engineer Husband) and me—you will see a crow fly through the video toward the end. We’re big crow fans; you can read about that in the post I wrote about MEH and the crows. And watch for more posts about crows coming up very soon!

Meanwhile in the garden…. You may recall the large potted pepper plant, nicknamed “Pepper Pete.” We had hopes of wintering the plant in the house and putting it back outside next spring. But a few days ago we discovered “Pepper Pete” is infested with aphids. So “he” has been put out to pasture on the porch. There are still peppers to harvest, and the weather has been mild enough that we may still get a few peppers! In mid-November in Maine, this is unheard of, at least in this gardening family!

Our other news is that we’ve been getting the bird feeding station ready for winter—squirrel proofing it—and putting out suet and thistle, too. We also put out corn for the squirrels and chipmunks, because I’m a fan of all woodland creatures!

This was the birdfeeder yesterday before we squirrel-proofed it. “Mr. Grackles,” as we call all
squirrels, could empty this of seeds in a day. This is the view I see out the window over my desk.

But don’t worry, Mr. Grackles is still being well fed! 


                                                                 

Picture Perfect (Video) Day on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, November 6, 2011, 11:30 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F)


Incredible. To have this weather in November is spectacular. The view from the overlook was phenomenal today. And it was a little surreal to watch the two Great Danes on the beach. (I truly thought they were ponies as we pulled into the parking lot!) An absolutely stunning day that words cannot do justice.


Meanwhile in the garden… we are clearing up the garden beds, going through a rushed fall clean up following last weekend’s surprise snowstorm. Almost every trace of the snow is gone now so today we’re tidying up: raking beds and some leaves, planting some daffodils, putting up a new mailbox (our old one was rusted through), mowing down the mint, pulling carrots, and putting away trellises, bean poles, etc., etc. Later today I’ll make a big pot of chili that we can eat for several meals this week, and then I’ll get some editing done on the WIP while MEH (My Engineer Husband) writes code to display graph overlays on a scientific instrument.

Here’s what the perennial bed looked like in July, what seems like yesterday!
This is how the perennial flower bed looked after we finished cleaning it up.
(That really WAS yesterday!) Later today we’ll plant Daffodil bulbs in this flower bed!

Happy Snowtober Nor’easter Video

(Sunday, October 30, 2011, 1:32 p.m. EST, 41 degrees F) 





You can’t really tell from the video but we got our first snow last night—“only” about six inches where we were, but 18 inches in other parts of Maine and 26 inches in other parts of New England! We got off easy with this one. The media is calling it “Snowtober,” a rare October snowstorm.

In addition to the snow, it was also very cold…26F degrees, our coldest temperatures this year. It was especially cold in our house after we lost power. The temperature in the house hit 54F degrees right before power was restored at a little after noon (a huge thank you to the wonderful crews of Central Maine Power). Today the snow has stopped, and much has melted away; all that’s left is high winds up to 35 mph.

You can really see the winds buffeting the camera in today’s video. What a difference from last week’s tranquil sunrise! And I think you can see some snow on the distant shoreline (high tide is hiding the sandbar beach).



We planted the garlic yesterday!

Meanwhile in the garden…. yesterday when we knew the storm was coming, we quickly went out and planted garlic—knowing it would be our last chance to plant this fall. Then we mulched it with straw, and sure enough today the garden is covered in a blanket of snow.

And covered with straw!

And this morning…. WOW!!
What a difference a day makes!


The More You Know…

A view out my main character’s window

These days I’m focused on my Work in Progress (WIP)—the one I finished a first draft of last month. I’m all set up on the dining room table with everything I need. Almost everything.

While I reorganize, edit, rework, I’m also doing research. I want to make sure I get it right. It’s a work of fiction, that’s true, but it’s reality-based. It takes place in a fictitious town, on a fictitious island in Maine, but there are still things that need to come across as real.

So as I go through the draft, I have a notebook in hand, and I’ve been making notes of everything I need to check. Questions about things like tides, how water flows, boats, land density, how houses looked during certain times in history, cultural and societal details, renovation and construction of houses, fishing and lobstering, and even treatment of mental health.

These details are what will make my story real to a reader, I know that. But right now—more importantly—they are bringing my story and characters to life for me. Maybe it’s partially my journalist roots, but one of my favorite parts of writing is the research: making lists of questions then figuring out how to get the answers.

I’ve done both primary and secondary research.

I’ve looked at documents, many many old (and new) photographs, deeds, land plots, architects’ drawings, maps of Casco Bay, mental illness case studies.

My dining room work station
I read books, search the web (of course), but I’ve also visited a few libraries, local historical societies, the Town Assessor’s office, the Town Engineer’s office, the County Registry of Deeds. I look at the documents they have, talk to the people who work there.

Because one of my favorite parts of the research process is sitting down with a person or talking to someone on the phone, a list of questions in front of me. Asking questions. Listening. Understanding. People who grew up on islands, people who summer on islands, people with deep roots in Maine but also not so deep. Fishermen and lobstermen, historians, and anthropologists. Contractors, mental health providers, engineers.

And I’ve been going on field trips (which I’m sure sounds like absolute torture…): islands, beaches, out on the water in lobster boats and ferries, old houses, local construction projects, walking trails in local wooded areas, gardens, even coffee shops and cafes. This is one of the reasons I started making the weekly Sunday videos from the beach overlook. Most field trips are planned but some have been impromptu. I’m driving someplace else and I see something I want my main character to see or someone she should talk to. I stop and do some research on the fly.

As I talk to people and visit various offices and experts, I take tools with me: always my reporter’s notebook (and pen), my iPhone (for photos and audio recording), often my SLR camera. Photos have been indispensible in reminding me what I see and even how I’m feeling when I see something: a sunset or sunrise, the starry sky, a moonrise, a boat or a house, a natural landmark or object, and—yes—I’ve even taken some photos of people (some without them even knowing, it’s true).

As I edit and write, I keep photos handy. In particular, a photo of a house—the one I imagine my main character lives in. I also have a photo of the views my main character sees out her window. My notebooks are also by my side, and I read through them frequently—if an interview is particularly important, I’ll type it out. The physical act of transcription helps me remember. If I make an audio recording, I transcribe it as soon as possible.

But that’s where the information stops: in a notebook, on a typed sheet of paper, in a photograph or photocopy, and in my mind’s eye. Most of the research will never see the printed page in my WIP—not in a form anyone but I will recognize. But these details I’ve collected help me shape the story: my character, her history, the things around her, what she sees and feels. And ultimately they will bring my story to life not just for me but for you too.

How do you make your stories come to life for you and your readers? What kind of research do you do for your stories? Are you like me—you enjoy the research process?


Cheers,
Julia

Windy Sunrise on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, October 16, 2011, 6:56 a.m. EST, 52 degrees F)

This morning we went to the beach overlook at sunrise—6:56 a.m. The eastern sky was streaked with beautiful pinks, oranges, and yellows. (Unfortunately we don’t face east when we take the videos; we face north!) It was very very windy this morning, so much so that it almost sounds like rain, and there were small waves cresting along the sandy point.

As we stood on the bridge, waiting for the best light for the video, our dog kept pulling MEH (My Engineer Husband) toward the path to the beach. Finally MEH relented and headed down to the beach while I took the video from the bridge…which means on this week’s video, you can see MEH and Abby strolling down the beach. While MEH was down there, he took some amazing photos of the sunrise!

As I took the video, I was excited to see a lobster boat with what we think was a “steady sail” on the back! A steady sail keeps the boat from rolling when it gets windy and the seas kick up—certainly the case today. And believe me, the wind had a definite chill to it, yet another reminder that winter is heading our way. Soon we’ll be standing on the bridge taking videos in the snow and ice, just like in our very first video postcard, Perfect (Maine) Beach Weather.


Finally, here’s one of the photos MEH took of the sunrise. Greetings from the coast of Maine!




Made in Maine: LITTLE GALE GUMBO

I am so happy to have as guest blogger today my friend Erika Marks—whose debut novel, Little Gale Gumbo was released just a few days ago! I met Erika on Twitter, and we quickly discovered something big we have in common: the State of Maine. Although we’ve never met in person, we’ve traveled the same paths at different times, making for some interesting and fun Twitter discussions! 


Erika has generously offered to give one lucky commenter (to this blog post) a copy of her wonderful book, Little Gale Gumbo (I’ve already read it and can tell you that you won’t want to miss it!). Simply leave a comment before midnight Saturday, October 15, and you will be entered to win a copy of her book! Then on Sunday, October 16, I will announce the winner on that day’s blog post.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Made in Maine: Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks
It has been such a joy getting to know Julia through Twitter. When we first met, I had no idea she was not only a fellow Mainer, but that she lives just down the road from where my parents live in Maine. (The tip-off was when she posted pictures of a very familiar dog park.) If you ever wonder why there are so many books set in Maine, look no further than Julia’s wonderful blog and her beautiful photos (and even videos!) of the Maine landscape for your answer. But it is Julia’s attention to the details of her home environment that make her posts such a unique experience for her readers and such rich tributes to Maine.


Photo courtesy of Erika Marks
When I chose to set my novel Little Gale Gumbo primarily in coastal Maine, I knew there would be an inherent challenge in writing a story with a popular setting. It is all too easy to assume readers have a built-in understanding of a place because it has appeared so frequently in books (not to mention movies and TV). But setting is as much a character in a novel as the people who populate it.


So how to make a familiar setting feel fresh?


Answer: make it yours.


In the case of my novel, I used pieces of my own experience growing up in Maine to set the stage, because for me as a reader—and a writer—it’s the details that make a setting authentic. Never think that just because a place is popular, it can’t be seen in a new light. The job of a writer is to bring a new vision, a new palette, to the familiar. To give it a twist, a spin. Don’t just smell the salt of the sea; thanks to the tides, the ocean’s aroma is constantly changing. High tide and low tide do notsmell the same. Show your reader those differences and you’ll keep their eyes from skimming over a description they may think they already know.


Most readers know what snow looks like—but what does it smell like?


Most readers have heard of Maine’s famous chocolate-cake-sandwich, the Whoopie Pie—but what about the equally well-loved, but not as well-known, Maine confection made from chocolate and potatoes, the Needham?


Most readers know about eating lobster—but what about eating steamers?


Instead of finding scallop shells on the beach, find razor clams. Instead of lobster dinners, have baked bean suppers.


In other words, don’t try to shape your setting to the one you think your reader already has in mind. Your reader wants you to set the scene for them.


I also had the benefit of having several of my characters get to know Maine for the first time. When Camille arrives with her daughters from New Orleans, it is a frigid November day and her youngest daughter Josie, toes and fingers numb with cold, is quite certain they have landed on the moon when their ferry glides up to the dock. When a character is a stranger in your book’s setting, that’s a perfect opportunity for you, the writer, to see freshness in the familiar. Much in the way when friends come to visit you in a new town and want the grand tour; let yourself be a tourist with your characters. Show them around. See the environment as they do, see the contrasts, learn what startles them, what makes them smile.


Maine is a remarkable and precious landscape—it is no wonder that its setting speaks to us as writers and readers. Even those of us who are sure we know it like the back of our hand. But thanks to the Bergeron women, I felt the damp chill of a misty Maine morning as if for the first time. I caught a whiff of warm blueberries ripening in the sun. I heard the crunch of snowmobile boots on a path of iced-over snow, and the faint crackling of sea foam as it clung to the beach, finally released from the surf.


These are the pieces of Maine that live in my heart.


I am proud, and grateful, to know they now live in the hearts of my characters, too.


How do you all “visit” a setting—familiar or not—when you’re writing? (And remember, leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Erika’s book!)


Erika Marks lives in North Carolina with her family. Her debut novel, Little Gale Gumbo, is now out from NAL/Penguin. 

Find Erika on Twitter @erikamarksauthr, on Facebook, or on her website http://www.erikamarksauthr.com. To buy the book, go to Little Gale Gumbo on Amazon.com.


Indian Summer on the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, October 8, 2011, 3:44 p.m. EST, 80 degrees F)

 

This week we had two nights of frost—a definite shock to my system. But today’s temperature was back up into the 80s—hitting 87 degrees at one point!

This seasonal confusion can only mean one thing: Indian summer. NOAA defines Indian Summer is “an unseasonably warm period near the middle of autumn, usually following a substantial period of cool weather.”

But here’s the thing…even though the temperatures can almost fool me into believing it’s summer again, I know it’s too good to be true. Several days ago I blogged about winter coming….today I’m taking a video of the beach looking like it’s summer. Later this week it will be fall again. Then perhaps we’ll have another dip into winter before switching back to fall once again.

Such are seasonal changes in Maine, one step forward then two steps back. On one hand, it gives us plenty of time to prepare for the next season—on the other hand, we get almost enough time to get used to one season before it changes again. Of course this can only go on so long before the inevitability of winter settles in.

Meanwhile in the garden, the zinnias have now been hit by a heavy frost, so their colors have faded to brown, but the tree leaves are starting to change colors in earnest. So we continue to have color in the garden!

Mr. Bacon Meets Mr. Bean

In front of Bean’s, posing (as tourists always do) with the
giant boot! Shout out to the lovely couple from Atlanta who
offered to take a photo of us with Mr. Bacon
(we declined)…and who quickly departed when we
offered to take a photo of them with Mr. Bacon!

Last week, after laughing along with the blog posts of writer friends Melissa Crytzer Fry and Patrick Ross about their escapades with Mr. Bacon, imagine our delight when who should show up on our doorstep but the free-spirited, brightly-striped, extraordinary porkslab Mr. Bacon himself. 


Rarely content to loiter in the grocery store’s cooler with the other rashers, Mr. Bacon creates his own sizzle. And although forewarned in Melissa’s latest post that Mr. Bacon may be headed our way, and further tipped off by the mysterious smoky breeze we mistook for our neighbor’s breakfast, we were nonetheless taken aback to open our door and find that small slice of a bendy toy complete with his own special pork panache.

Mr. Bacon stopped to “meet”
Mr. L. L. Bean himself.
But wait, there may be some of you wondering….what the heck is she talking about now? Some of you may still believe bacon is merely a treat to enjoy for breakfast or in a tasty BLT. Who is this Mr. Bacon? And what could he possibly have to do with the writing life?


Melissa said it best on her blog:

“…It all started back in August. Journalist Patrick Ross introduced his sidekick, Mr. Bacon, to the blogosphere. On Patrick’s blog, Mr. Bacon made a break for freedom in the Shenandoah National Park, hoping to lose himself in the forest. With such short legs, he was an easy catch. Good for a laugh, Mr. Bacon was also a symbol of Patrick’s love for bacon (as well as his affection for bendy bacon toys). Then something interesting happened. Mr. Bacon took the writing world by storm. Writers tweeted Mr. Bacon’s adventures, responding warmly to the hint of his bacony aroma.”

Mr. Bacon had a chance to stop and smell the roses–his bacony
aroma combined with the roses created quite a sweet-salty tang
 in the air! (Rosa Rugosa (beach roses) are a beloved Maine
trademark flower.)
So now that you have the delicious and savory backstory (and I’ve given you a face to put with the bacon) I can continue with the story of our visit with mouthwatering Mr. Bacon! 


MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I were overjoyed to have the opportunity to show Mr. Bacon the wonderful state of Maine. We offered to take him where no bacon has traveled before (except in a frying pan) to the natural wonders of this vacationland state: picturesque islands, beautiful inland lakes, gorgeous mountains, wild rivers. 


But Mr. Bacon said “NO!” He would not go another greasy step until he was properly outfitted. He does, after all, have a well-seasoned reputation to consider!
And where in Maine do you go to get outfitted for outdoors adventure? L.L. Bean of course! Mr. Bacon, it seems, had heard all about the famous L.L. Bean boots. In case you’re not familiar with L.L. Bean, it’s a go-to place for outdoor outfitting. More importantly, its flagship store is minutes away from the wordsxo blog world headquarters—and perhaps even more importantly than that, it’s open 24 hours a day. That means, we can get boots at a drop of a hat, day or night! 
Even though we explained that moose are herbivores, this large
 moose really startled Mr. Bacon. Maybe he had his eye on the
coyote just to the moose’s right. Known fact: coyotes
love bacon (and all other meaty treats).
In our neck of the woods, L.L. Bean is known simply as “Beans.” We (and everyone else around here) go there to buy anything from kayaks to camping and hunting gear to kitchen equipment (even…yes it’s true, gulp, FRYING PANS!). More importantly it’s a tourist destination, and with its four stores in Freeport, creates an almost amusement-park-like atmosphere, featuring a giant fish tank for salmon, two snack bars, summertime concerts and plays, and even a giant boot at the entryway—a perfect place for camera-snapping tourists (like our tantalizing Mr. Bacon!) to pose to have their pictures taken.



This second boot was much closer
to Mr. Bacon’s size, but still was
much too large…
But our petite porcine Mr. Bacon was interested in L.L. Bean for something very specific: the famous L.L. Boot. Secretly, MEH voiced his concern to me that we’d never find Mr. Bacon’s shoe size (quadruple 0). I think Mr. Bacon overheard but remained unscorched—pulling off that smokey cool as only he can—and we headed up to Bean’s on a lovely fall afternoon. 
While at Beans, of course Mr. Bacon did a little sightseeing: hitting all the main attractions and some of the more obscure. And although it was indeed a challenge to find boots in his size, a very nice Bean’s employee helped us find just the right boots for his diminutive feet. 




Once fully outfitted, we hit the open road and showed Mr. Bacon all the sights fit for a bendy toy of his stature. But still, his visit was far too short, and all that remains now is the good memories, these photographs, and the delicious bacony aroma lingering behind….and the question: just where will he show up next?

This wonderful Bean’s employee (who was clearly smitten with Mr. Bacon’s smoldering good looks)
trusted him to keep her identity secret as she helped Mr. Bacon find just the right boots
 for his thinly-sliced foot.

Mr. Bacon let me snap this photo of him as we left the store.
Let me tell you, Mr. Bacon is one scrumptious sport! 


And here’s Mr. Bacon all outfitted, just before we hit the open road to
see all the sights we could during his all-too-short visit to Maine.

If you are craving more bacon treats (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), head over to this fabulous site created by Melissa and her husband. (We’ve submitted some outtakes from Mr. Bacon’s visit to Maine!) And if you are interested in serving up the delectable and ever-crispy Mr. Bacon on your blog, please let me know in comments, and we’ll contact his agent to check his busy calendar and get back to you!

Note: L.L. Bean did not in any way compensate wordsxo for this post. All photos featured in this blog post were taken after receiving permission from an L.L. Bean store employee. And Mr. Bacon paid for his own boots!

Great Blue Heron on a Rainy Beach

(Saturday, October 1, 2011, 8:10 a.m. EST, 61 degrees F)



It’s been raining off and on this week, and this morning we went to the bridge overlook in the pouring rain to make our weekly video. Usually we take our videos on Sunday, but tomorrow a half marathon road race will close roads and make it impossible for us to get to the bridge.

What a difference a week makes—last week the beach (and bridge) were totally socked in with thick fog. This week, it was a beautiful, albeit wet, view. We timed our arrival with very low tide in hopes of seeing and recording some seabirds, and we were not disappointed. If you look above the tree on the left, you’ll see a Great Blue Heron (GBH) standing in the water.
But wait for it—at about the 17-second mark the GBH takes flight. It took me a few seconds to figure out why. And then I saw a dog, running down the length of the beach chasing the bird. The dog’s owner comes into sight a few seconds later. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I didn’t get a longer look at this beautiful bird.

Meanwhile in the garden….we haven’t had a hard frost yet (which will kill most of the vegetables) so we are still harvesting the few non-blighted tomatoes, peppers, and beans. Swiss chard will survive a hard frost, and we’ll be harvesting kale until it’s buried in snow (and if it’s like last year, it will survive until next fall!).

We also had a surprise! A small crop of late new potatoes—which we combined with green pepper, spring onions, eggs, and cheese to make one of our favorite breakfast scrambles!



SLOW. Bump.

I’m telling you, it was foggy. And I don’t even remember this old car passing me. Ghosty, huh?

It’s been foggy lately, really foggy. So this morning, it was pretty audacious to think we could take our usual Sunday morning video of the beach overlook. But it didn’t stop us.
It should have stopped us because I was already in a bad mood. And we didn’t have much time.

Standing in our usual spot on the bridge, in the fog, I began to realize the folly of our way. We made several strategic errors this morning.

1. It’s foggy. Really foggy. You can’t see anything in the video. Nothing. Except the trees right in front of our face.

2. The traffic wouldn’t stop going by. And then, they would slow waaayyyy down as they passed us. For the first time ever, it seemed that people wondered What are they looking at?I was afraid someone would actually stop and ask me something like: Are you that weird blogger who posted a video of me walking my dog on the beach? (Thankfully no one stopped, but at least 10 cars went by and every single car slowed down. Every single one.)

3. We brought the dog. We rarely bring the dog. She (a) would not stop panting, I’m pretty sure you can hear her in the video, and (b) a well-meaning, very nice runner stopped to talk to her in the middle of one of my attempts to make the video. I’m pretty sure you can hear her (the runner, not the dog) talking to MEH (My Engineer Husband) at the end of the video.

4. I was going to wait a few minutes (after the traffic cleared and the runner went by) and make another video. But the camera’s batteries died. And we didn’t bring any back ups.

5. I thought about waiting until the fog cleared and going back and taking another video with new batteries. But instead, we need to return a coffee pot we bought yesterday (it leaks water all over the counter because it has a broken float). And we need to buy a dishwasher because that’s leaking on the floor and doesn’t get the dishes clean anymore. (MEH tried to fix it last night, but there’s too much wrong with it to make it worth the money to repair.)

6. Did I mention I’m trying to edit that first draft?

True confession time. I was grumpy. Really really grumpy. So, finally we gave up and sad to say, stuck with a video that you can see practically nothing of interest in (on viewing it at home, I did notice there is some nice birdsong in it, though!). We turned around to leave. As we did, yet another car slowed down. I grumbled to MEH. “Really? Another car slowing down? If they ask me what I’m looking at, I’m going to say: ‘didn’t you see the 7 moose right on the other side of the bridge?’”
Just then I noticed the sign about 8 feet from where I was standing: SLOW, Bump. And then I noticed the area under construction on the other side of the bridge, that drivers were clearly slowing down to avoid.

So, apparently everything really isn’t all about me. Not today anyway.

Ever had one of those days?

Cheers,

Julia


p.s. Oh, here’s the video.

(Sunday, September 17, 2011, 8:25 a.m. EST, 68 degrees F)

Late Summer Wading on the Coast of Maine

Saturday, September 17, 2011, 12:46 p.m. EST, 65 degrees F




I could have called this post “Waiting” instead of “Wading” because right off camera there was a crowd of about 20 people obviously waiting for something or someone. They were all looking over the water into the distance, scanning the horizon.


The air was sharply cooler this week, and last night we had some light frost. It was only 37 degrees (F) when we went on our dog walk this morning….brrrr. A shock to the system and a harbinger of things to come.

Meanwhile in the garden….we still have tomatoes, green beans, and (hopefully) another crop of potatoes, if we can beat the heavy frost. The zinnias are providing a last blast of color.



Cheers,

Julia

Quiet Stillness on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, September 11, 2011, 7:50 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F



For the first time this late summer, it was colder than 50F degrees when we got up to take the dog for a walk. I’m here to say that 48.9F feels pretty cold after a hotter-than-average summer, and I’m a little nervous about the impending winter.

By the time we got to the bridge overlook it was just 50 degrees on the water. A beautiful, glorious clear day with almost no clouds in the sky. The video is remarkable by its uneventfulness.

We talked to two birders today (first ones we’ve encountered on these Sunday mornings!): one, a young man on the bridge with binoculars and a camera with a long telephoto lens—photographing “migratory birds” he said. I asked him what kind, and he simply responded: “oh, loads.” The woman, who we met on the way down to the beach (we took our dog down to walk by the water), when asked if she’d seen anything interesting, first said…. “oh, a little,” and then casually commented on a “Pileated” (Woodpecker) that was exhibiting “weird behavior.”

I found it mildly intriguing that for the first time in seven months we met our first birders by the bridge—and this time two of them—and both independently were looking in the same direction and seemed to be purposeful in their activities. Yet both were vague with what they were looking for when we asked them and were not very specific in what they had seen. My vivid writer’s imagination kicked into overdrive.

Meanwhile in the garden….wabi-sabi is setting in, and I am trying to enjoy the late-summer overgrown and fading garden. We continue to harvest eggplant, beans, tomatoes, and many other vegetables. We made two large pots of tomato sauce this week. And we will harvest apples from our apple tree for the first time since we moved into the house more than 10 years ago—for some reason it’s apparently a good year for apples!

The row of sunflowers outside our living room window is now about 9 feet tall!


First Signs of Fall on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, September 4, 2011, 8:20 a.m. EST, 70 degrees F




It’s hard to believe what a difference a week makes: last week Hurricane Irene was looming and this week the water was as calm as calm can be. (However, the overall stillness of this week’s video is broken by the cars going by and a guy—out of camera view—arguing with his dog about going up the hill, away from the beach, to his car. I want to make sure to point out it’s a dog, lest you think he’s talking to a child—like I first did!)


“Pepper Pete,” as MEH (My Engineer
Husband) has nicknamed the potted
pepper plants, continues to produce
beautiful green and red peppers!

Fall is in the air. Not only are the leaves changing on some trees, including the ones within camera view, but the days are getting shorter. We hear crickets at night, the birds are flocking and starting to migrate, and school starts on Tuesday. Labor Day weekend is generally regarded as the end of tourist season in Maine, and even though we’ll still get some “outer-staters” coming in, things will start to quiet down and eventually wind down to winter.


Still, that’s a ways off, with leaf peeper season starting soon. Our peak season, when most of the leaves are at their height of color, may be earlier than the average mid-October; if you want to follow along, the state of Maine has a website with the weekly foliage report, starting on September 14.

The sadness of “late blight” on the tomatoes:
ultimately the whole plant will die, but
it’s a race between the blight and first
frost at this point!
Meanwhile in the garden….we still have as many tomatoes as we want (although unfortunately most of the plants have developed something called “late blight,” which will ultimately rot the fruit), pole beans, Swiss chard, lots of basil, winter squash, carrots, turnips, and kale. If the season lasts long enough, we may get a second crop of potatoes and hopefully some beets—it’s not been a good year for us with beets and our first planting didn’t produce even one!

What are the season changes bringing to your part of the world, if any? Does fall bring changes to your writing and household routines?


Cheers,
Julia

The Great Giveaway

Here’s what’s included in THE GREAT GIVEAWAY!

By leaving a comment at the end of this post you’ll be entered in the giveaway! You don’t have to read the entire post to do that—but I think you might want to anyway! It’s funny AND you’ll find out what you’ll win in the giveaway! 


So here’s what happened. Two days ago (and yes even more than two days ago) I was having trouble focusing on writing. So, of course, that’s what I’m going to blog about. Right? Right.


But if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I like to do hands on stuff. I take (almost) all the photos for my blog andI act out what my fiction characters might do, like in this post. I end up doing some quirky things—like in this post when I tried to figure out who stole branches from my apple tree and in this post when I sent out messages in bottles (nothing back yet, by the way).


This is the photo I included in my last post. You may not have
even noticed the Lego house in the background!

My last post was no different. I wanted to have a photo that represented the different demands on my time. I decided I’d use a brass bird bell for Twitter/social networking and folded index cards for the WIP writing, the freelance writing, blog, etc. But what about my home demands? I decided I needed a representation of home.


I mean, home is one of the things I talk about a lot on this blog. And it’s important to me. I started looking everywhere in my house for a small house, a little representation of home I could use in my photo. Surely I had to have something! But, after half an hour of looking I came up empty handed. Nothing.

So I did what anyone would do. I went to Walmart. A mere 15-minute drive. And sure enough, I found one thing that would do (it wasn’t perfect but oh well): a Lego kit with a house in it. I drove home (I paid first—if I hadn’t this blog would’ve been about something entirely different. And I specifically remember paying because in front of me in line at the register there was a really weird, very pale guy dressed in camouflage buying ammo—scary and creepy, but again, another blog).

15 minutes and I was back home. And that’s when it hit me: “oh yeah, I need to build the house.” Another 20 minutes, which by the way would’ve taken any kindergartner 2 seconds to build—but unfortunately I’m fresh out of 5-year-olds in this family.

This little Lego guy shows how I felt after I built the house
and realized I’d spent an hour on prepartion for the
post; time I could’ve spent writing. The little gray&white
blocks in the middle of the photo are my attempt to build
a computer for the little wordsxo guy…
maybe she’ll get some writing done!!

So there I was, an hour into the latest blog-inspired adventure and (1) I hadn’t yet written the blog post about not being able to focus on writing, and—perhaps more to the point, (2) I hadn’t written any of my novel(s), which were still sitting in a pile on the kitchen table.



But, the good part (here’s where the giveaway finally comes in) was that I was left with a little Lego house and about 185 untouched Lego pieces still in a nearly-pristine box. And still no 5-year-old to play with them. So that’s when I thought what anyone would think: “Ah-ha! I’ll give it away on my blog!”


Followed quickly by: “But what if they don’t have kids? They won’t enter!”

And then quickly again by: “Ah-ha! I’ll include more stuff!”

Thus this giveaway was born! Which leads me (finally) to what is included in this great giveaway! If you leave a comment at the end of  this post (and you win), here’s what you’ll get:

1. The new-two-days-ago Lego Kit—includes one custom-built, designed by Lego built by wordsxo, home. All parts of the original Lego kit are included. Most (except the house) are in the original packaging.

2. A spiral bound 100% recycled acid-free paper notebook with Great Blue Herons (AKA: GBH; Scientific name: Ardea Herodias) on the cover. If you read my blog very often you know that I write and Tweet a lot about birds, and I love GBHs!

3. A teak cherry (thank you Erika!) bookmark with a cut-out GBH (see note above)….are we seeing a pattern here? It’s a really lovely bookmark, you’ll have to take my word for it!

4. A bag of “the caviar of Maine,” otherwise known as dried wild Maine blueberries. Not only are these incredibly healthy and chock-full of antioxidants, but they are incredibly delicious and addictive. I included these not only because they’re delicious but also because I write a lot about the state of Maine, and I think blueberries and Great Blue Herons and the beach videos I post every week really have kind of started to be a theme on my blog!

I’ll leave this post open for comments for two weeks, until September 15. Then on Friday morning, September 16, I will assign each comment a number, and I’ll use a random number generator to pick one of you as a winner! I’ll announce the winner on my blog!

Oh, and one more thing. I didn’t get paid for mentioning any of the products in the giveaway. Nor did I get any of the items for free. 

Finally, if you’re already one of my loyal blog and/or Twitter followers: THANK YOU, I LOVE YOU. If you’re new to wordsxo, welcome to my blog, it’s nice to meet you! I hope you’ll come back for more adventures with me! 

Cheers,

Julia