International Flair

You never know what is going to inspire a tablescape.  This one started with orchids which were thoughtful gifts deserving  special attention. 

Orchids made me think of Thailand where the markets literally had bags stuffed full with purple, pink and white blooms.  That thought led me to choose this beautiful handwoven silk table runner that was made in Bangkok.  Thanks to Jim Thompson, the weaving as a cottage industry is alive and well there.

The runner paired nicely with placemats purchased from a street vendor in that same city.  I love finding things for the table that are light and take little suitcase space when I travel.

Because it is spring, a season of gardens bursting with color,  these dishes that once belonged to my mother-in-law seemed a nice complement all the pink tones.  According to the writing on the back, they were handpainted by a woman named Ernestine in Salerno, Italy. I believe they were sent home by a soldier husband during World War II.  I would love to know the whole story.

OK, Thailand and Italy are covered, so let’s go with napkins from a Saigon market.  Each little flower is hand embroidered.  In addition to this table showcasing pieces gathered from my travels, it also confirms my attraction to all things hand done.

All that is left to complete the table is glasses, and they, too, have a story.  I don’t know where they are from, but they belonged to a special friend’s grandmother.  My friend thought I would use them more than she and gave them to me.  She was not wrong, and the glasses with their wonderful texture are much used.

So many of my tables are filled with special memories of people and places.  This one, with its international flair, is especially so as with each piece my mind wandered to another place and the experiences had there.  

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Tablescape Thursday

Thinking Back & Ahead

As 2017 draws to an end, like many of you I’m reliving some of the past months and thinking ahead to what the next year will bring.

IMG_8569January and February are blurs as most of that time was spent laid up thanks to surgery to rebuild a heel bone and reattach an Achilles tendon.  To say the least, I’m glad that’s behind me and grateful for that being the worst health issue I’ve had.

IMG_8633Getting out was a treat even though it often meant scooting around rather than walking.

By March I was back in the kitchen experimenting with new food ideas and challenging myself to spend some of the down time working on food photography.

Having a bit more mobility in April allowed me to take advantage of exhibits at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where Ron Mueck’s life like sculptures were both intriguing and a tad scary.

By the end of May, we were on the road to Maine making stops in Savannah and South Carolina to explore the low country and binge on yummy food.

Arriving in Maine, the first order of business was to replace the water facing porch, the maintenance for which had eaten the hubby’s lunch over the years.  What an improvement and hubby will be ever so happy next year when all he has to do is put the furniture out!

Pipe DreamsAfter a month of projects, it was time in July to do what we like best: explore Maine’s coast and islands on Pipe Dreams.

August was family time, and it makes my heart sing to see how much the grandkids enjoy the magic of Maine.

foggy dayMuch of September was shrouded in fog which limited boating but provided good excuse to discover what else Maine has to offer.

In October, we journeyed to the Moosehead Lake region where we enjoyed natural beauty and stumbled upon a memorial that introduced us to a tragic event about which we knew nothing.

img_0004A dream came true in November when girlfriends traveled together in India.  Bus rides got to be a bit much, but the adventure was one that more than met expectations and provided us with memories to share.

IMG_0090Though we had expected to end 2017 in Maine, winter got the best of us and we returned to Houston to celebrate the coming of a new year with long time friends.

As with every other year, there will be bumps in the road in 2018, but for all of us I hope for good health and well being and light on those days when things don’t look too bright.

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Unexpected Bonus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to those gusting winds, we were late leaving Gloucester which meant there was no way we were going to make it to our scheduled Maine destination. That realization necessitated  an alternate plan.  Lucky for us Portsmouth, New Hampshire was about 3 hours away and the marina at Wentworth By the Sea  had one slip available.  We were more than happy to have it as judging from the number of boats there, the resort is a popular destination.  For us, it was an unexpected bonus!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were relieved to be in place, and before doing any exploring of this very attractive resort we brought out goodies for tini time.  It was great to just sit back, relax and forget about the challenge of getting here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat made the location really special was its proximity to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, one of my favorite New England towns.  Luckily, the resort has loaner cars which made it possible to make a quick trip into town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPortsmouth is a place where on sunny summer days, folks enjoy sitting at a sidewalk cafe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand musicians like this fella playing a unique Swedish instrument enjoy playing for passersby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor a small town, Portsmouth is full of shops and restaurants.  In a short period of time, I made as many of the shops as possible and came away with some new duds and an addition to my birdhouse collection.  You’ll likely see it later, perhaps as part of a tablescape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of the downtown area is on the Piscataqua River  which separates New Hampshire from Maine.  The state line is right in the middle of the river, and every time I cross the bridge separating the two states, I wonder how that boundary was determined.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough this facility is called the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, it is actually in Kittery, Maine,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAas is this one time prison for recalcitrant naval and marine personnel.  According to Wikipedia, it was abandoned in the 1970’s and remains standing because it is too costly to tear down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith its storied history and early New England architecture, Portsmouth is well worth a visit if you are ever up this way.  And, if you want to stay in a really super place, the Wentworth Resort is it.  You can bet we are planning on returning to the marina for a longer stay!

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Family Perfect

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Trying to find an adventure to share with a daughter’s family which has three little boys 4, 5 and 6 is something of a challenge. After thinking and thinking and thinking some more, a Disney cruise provided just the right answer.

IMG_5529From start to finish, it was perfect for the entire family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boys were a little worried about being away from home on Christmas, but they need not have feared.  The Disney Wonder was fully decked out for the season.

Special treats were plentiful

IMG_5543and Santa was right there on the ship listening to all good little boys and girls.

Favorite Disney characters greeted children at every turn,

IMG_5590and there were activities from swimming to dancing on the deck to movies to kids’ clubs to spa….well, you name it, there was something for guests of all ages.

IMG_5578 (1)And, if some quiet time was desired, there were places for that, too.

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If you can believe it, the crew even found a way for an exciting fireworks display over the open sea!

IMG_5520Aboard ship no detail was overlooked.  Accommodations were comfortable, food offerings satisfied every appetite, meal times were well organized and the crew  friendly and ready to meet every passenger’s need.  I guess it should come as no surprise that Disney knows how to entertain and do it right!

IMG_5588All in all, the cruise was a perfect way to spend time with family and the four days from Galveston to Cozumel was just long enough to keep the boys entertained.  I’m thinking it was also an adventure to be remembered.

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Through My Eyes: Quebec City

When you look at a map of the U.S. the northern part of Maine looks like it could be part of Canada, so that’s the first clue that it’s a pretty easy trek to places like New Brunswick, Montreal or Quebec City.

MaineAt the last minute the hubby and I decided a trip to Quebec City would be a great way to wind down our time in Maine. It’s little more than a 5 hour drive through small towns and beautiful wooded areas with the Kennebec River running through them.  

IMG_5275In places, one could almost feel as if nothing had ever been there except for the moose which motorists were warned to be aware of. Though Maine is said to have lots of moose, would you believe I’ve not seen a single one!

Quebec CityOn to Quebec City and the old town where French is the language of choice though on this trip it seemed that folks were a little more open to speaking English. Exploring the area is an absolute delight.  The streets are narrow and cobblestoned meant for pedestrians only.

There’s quite a lot to do there, but you can find out about all that on Trip Advisor or in a guide book.  What I’m going to share with you are the things that caught my eye.

Window boxes which no doubt change with the season.

Shutters, the kind that remind me of Provence.

Clever signs outside every shop and restaurant.

Art in unexpected places!

Quebec CityMurals so lifelike you felt like you’d entered another time.Quebec CityRooftops with their differing lines and colors.

Quebec CityThe market filled with local produce, meats, cheese and prepared goodies.  No way can I pass up a good market!

Quebec CityAnd, of course, the Frontenac Hotel built in the late 1800’s by the Canadian railway cannot be overlooked.

Quebec CityLocated high above the old town, it reminds of chateaux built in the 14th and `15th centuries in the Loire Valley.  No matter from which angle it is viewed, it is extraordinary.

So there you have it, my view of Quebec City.  If you’ve been there, please share what caught your eye.

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Maine’s Hot Spots

Maine welcome signFolks come to Maine for many reasons.

islandMaybe it’s to relax

Heron, schooneror to experience a schooner cruise and take in the beautiful Maine coast

islandsor to enjoy the natural beauty of this unspoiled state.  Whatever draws visitors here, there are some places that are real hot spots.

Red’s Eats in Wiscasset

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No matter the weather, there’s always a line at Red’s during the summer.  I’ve heard that its notoriety came from the attention it got after Robert Redford stopped there for a lobster roll some years ago.  Whatever the reason, Red’s is known far and wide and the crowds stop traffic making Wiscasset a very hard place to get through in July and August.

Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro

Moody's DinerMoody’s is a real throwback diner, and there’s never a time when the parking lot is not full.  The fare is simple but good, and some say the best blueberry pie in Maine comes from Moody’s.  That’s saying something because there are many tasty blueberry pies!

Dysart’s in Bangor

DysartsDysart’s is a combination truck stop, restaurant and gift shop that’s been around for a long time.  Like Moody’s the menu is simple down home cooking which may be its appeal.

L.L. Bean in Freeport

L L BeanIs there anyone who hasn’t heard of L.L. Bean?  Without question, this is one of the hottest spots in Maine.  

L L BeanWith such a huge mail order business, you might not expect the physical site to be very big.  Wrong!  It covers about two blocks and has everything you can imagine.

Want furnishings for your cabin or home or fishing/hunting  equipment or a pair of the famous Maine made L.L. Bean mud boots?

  It’s all there and then some and for the intrepid shopper, the store is open 24 hours every day but Christmas.  In addition to all the goods it has to offer, you can’t beat L.L. Bean for customer service.

Maine is full of backroads and traveling them, you never know when or where you’ll come across an interesting place to stop.  I try not to miss any of them, but I have to be driving to make that happen!

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Zurich: A Quick Look

ZurichOn the way to our real adventure, we made a quick stop in Zurich.  Lovely as it is, it is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been.  A beer and bratwurst served with fries $30….really!

We strolled the streets and while the following may not be in sight seeing books, here’s what caught my eye.

SteeplesSteeples standing tall against blue sky.

PeoplePeople taking time out to steal quiet moments in the sun

cell phone talkersand, more likely, chatting on cell phones, checking messages or whatever.  That’s fodder for another whole post!

muralsWorking from cartoons and using only spray paints, artists creating fun murals to hide construction sites.

ZurichSnow capped Alps providing a backdrop for Lake Zurich

Zurichand breathtaking sunsets casting a magical glow over Zurich making it a canvas only God can create and artists try to copy.

With so much to take in, who needs a guide book?

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Packing Tips

We no sooner get to Maine than we are repacking our bags for a month away.  From my Delta flight attendant days, I learned that packing light is the best way to travel.

IMG_4409I find it helpful to make a list of everything that might be needed and as each item goes into the suitcase, check it off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack and white are perfect for travel.  Add a pair of favorite jeans and with very few pieces it is possible to have an extensive wardrobe.  I won’t be seen by the same people day after day so what difference does it make if the same shirt or pair of pants is worn multiple times?

IMG_4411Knit tops that require no ironing are practical choices.  Tightly rolled and packed close, they take up minimal space in a suitcase.

Shoes are always the hard part.  Finding ones that are comfortable for walking and have some style is a challenge.

fitflopsThese days I go nowhere without fitflops.  They have good support and are oh so comfy except for the most difficult terrains.

IMG_4403For sturdier shoes, I’m crazy about  Nike’s Air Pegasus.  They are light, a little more stylish than traditional tennis shoes and perfect for a mostly black and white wardrobe.

IMG_4405For nights out I throw in a pair of sandals that are also suitable for walking the lesser challenging streets.

IMG_4412There you have it, a not quite full suitcase that leaves room for the treasures I expect to find!  

What packing trips can you share?

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On the Road….Again!

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.

Charles Kuralt

road tripThe car is packed,

MaizyMaizy is curled on the back seat and we are ready to begin the long road to Maine.

road signsThe few times we’ve driven Houston to Maine to Houston we’ve made an adventure out of it, but this time we hit the road, kept going until we got to Rockport and didn’t see a thing.  Well, that’s not exactly true as there were hundreds of signs identifying gas stations, motels, McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Cracker Barrel and the like.

IMG_4341The highlight of the trip? A stop at a Virginia KFC where all thoughts of healthy left my head when I learned this one still serves chicken livers. Not many people must order them because I was served enough for 3 people!

IMG_4344Short nights were spent at dog friendly and near the interstate hotels, all of which had the same breakfast menu.  I have to confess that the biscuits with sausage gravy weren’t all that bad.

road tripLong days on the road were bad enough, but when cars and trucks were lined up in an unmoving caravan for more than 2 hours things got a little testy.  We never did find out what the holdup was, but my guess is it had something to do with an 18 wheeler.  Good thing we had audio books which kept us entertained while we waited for wheels to start turning again.

Rockport HarborThe good news is the trip is over, and when we at last got to Rockport, we were greeted by a rainbow, God’s way of welcoming us home.

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Guns, Gowns and Beer

Maine is a big state with lots of small towns, many too small to justify a real supermarket.  Instead, there are general stores that provide basic staples and sometimes much more.  

Hussey's/MaineBecause they are so different from what I am used to in Houston, I can’t resist stopping and checking them out, and on this cold winter day Hussey’s in Windsor got my attention.  I have to tell you it tops them all!

Hussey's/MaineWedding gowns….really?  Yep, and they hang right next to stacks of jeans!

Hussey'sThe selection is far greater than you might imagine and when asked if they sold very many, the question was met with a laughing response, “Honey, we are so busy right now we can’t take any more orders for summer weddings.”

Hussey's/MaineAs the sign outside promises, there’s a huge selection of guns.  Could there be some connection between them and weddings?

Hussey'sLet me tell you, there’s a lot of everything here ranging from a collection of books you haven’t seen in years to collectible LPs to worms and crawlers and, oh yes, plenty of foodstuffs.

Hussey's1Looking for a special treasure or memorabilia?  Well, that’s here, too.

Hussey's/MaineI’m not sure about this space.  Maybe they just gave up trying to keep track of everything in the store!

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The Scoop