Monthly Archives: July 2015

The whole fam-damily, part 2

A quick trip to Maine

This month, it was Eric’s turn for a family reunion, so we were off to Yarmouth, Maine. (It’s not Eric’s home, but his four kids moved there as middle- and high-schoolers.)

Lighthouse and keeper's house on a rocky cliff in Portland, Maine

Iconic Portland Head Light

Now in their 20s and 30s, his kids are scattered around the eastern half of the US, so seeing them all in one place is a rare event. A few months ago we decided to go to Yarmouth to experience Clam Festival, a community celebration that we’d heard a lot about over the years. Turned out, we weren’t the only ones in the family who had that idea, and soon the quest for Clam Fest evolved into an engagement party for Eric’s son, Andy, and his fiancée, Kelly, who were coming up from Jacksonville, Florida.

Is bean a verb?

bean | intransitive verb \been\ :to shop at L.L. Bean. Example overheard at breakfast: “I beaned yesterday, and I’m going to bean again today.”

Being among the first to arrive, we had much of our first day to ourselves. Our B&B was just up the road from Yarmouth, in Freeport, the home of mega-retailer L.L. Bean’s flagship store. Whenever we’re in Maine we make it a point to drop some bucks at Bean. Their pleasant campus houses individual buildings for apparel, hunting and fishing, home, and bike, boat and ski stores—something for everybody. Of course, everyone takes a photo at the boot. We beaned three times in four days.

Eric, me, Kelly, Andy, and Maddie at the LL Bean boot

Eric, me, Kelly, Andy, and Maddie at the LL Bean boot

Bean’s preppy clothes aren’t necessarily my style, yet I always find something to buy. And since downtown Freeport is really just a big outdoor outlet mall, there are plenty of other opportunities. I found a couple of floaty batik tops in a little import shop that was wonderfully scented with incense and patchouli … true to my hippie-chick roots. Those tops did a good job of perfuming our room for a few days. (Now, they just smell like Kirkland laundry soap … meh.)

We paused for lunch—delicious lobster salad, although I found drinking out of a Patriots glass to be deflating. Boo.

Lobstah salad and Patriots glass

Lobstah lunch at Linda Bean’s

Clam Fest

50th annual Clam Fest poster showing cartoon depictions of festival events

50th annual Yarmouth Clam Festival

Nothing says “summer” like a small-town celebration. This was Yarmouth’s 50th annual Clam Festival, and we were finally there to take it all in: A crescent of white food booths lined the Memorial Green, each benefiting a philanthropic or school organization, offering fried clams, fried shrimp, fried burgers, fried dough (we chose fried clams and strawberry shortcake).

A crescent of white food booths in the park

Anything you want … fried

We wandered through acres of tents for the invitational art fair and the juried crafts fair. I found the one booth I was hoping to find: Fish in the Garden. When Eric bought me two large ceramic koi at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, we discovered the artist, Tyson Weiss,  was from Falmouth, Maine, just down the road from Yarmouth. I intended to drop by his studio, but of course he was at Clam Fest instead. Koi No. 3 has joined his brothers in our Japanese garden. (They are waiting to be mounted on their supports, which will float them a few inches off the ground.)

Fish in the Garden booth at Yarmouth Clam Fest

Fish in the Garden

Three blue ceramic koi swim in gravel

Fish in our garden

We also bought prints by Alan Claude, whose Maine coastal art we’ve admired and bought on previous trips.

Maine seacoast prints by Alan Claude booth at Yarmouth Clam Fest

Seacoast prints by Alan Claude

We had to smile at the local tradition of using lawn chairs to stake out prime viewing territory along Main Street, days in advance of Friday night’s parade. No one disturbs them.

Lawn chairs lined up on the curb before the parade

Waiting for the parade

The parade’s theme was Flashback Friday. The only float that gave me flashbacks was a crazy commemoration of Woodstock. Also impressive were the FLUKES (Falmouth Library Ukulele Society) and the enormous unicycle club, which couldn’t all fit into one photo.

And of course, at the carnival and Saturday night fireworks show, every teenager in town—and then some—came to see and be seen. (I remember those days.) We didn’t ride anything, but I am drawn to colored lights like a June bug.

White cheddah

After meandering around Clam Fest all Friday afternoon, we went back to Freeport and ate dinner on the patio of an Italian restaurant. Just as we were finishing, I noticed Andy and Kelly sitting nearby, with two women we assumed were Kelly’s aunts. We joined them and were introduced to aunts Trish and Lainie, from Long Island, NY. Wine was flowing. “We’re staying just down the street,” I mentioned to Trish. “So are we!” she replied in her Long Island accent, “At the White Cheddah.” I may have snorted. “You mean the White Cedar?” “No,” Trish insisted, “I’m sure it’s the White Cheddah.” A quick web search proved that even entering “white cheddar inn” pointed to the White Cedar Inn. “I’m going to put you in my blog!” I threatened. We laughed and laughed … and will always call it the White Cheddah Inn now.

Five family members around a table at a restaurant patio at night

Andy, Trish, Kelly, Lainie, and Eric at Azure

Speaking of the White Cheddah … if you’re ever in Freeport, I highly recommend the White Cedar Inn. Rock and Monica run a first-class B&B. I think this was our fifth stay with them, and I hope it won’t be our last. (Our room: second floor, right.)

White Victorian B&B among trees

White Cedar Inn

The Party

We had a great time catching up with Eric’s kids and meeting extended present and future family members. Can’t wait to see everyone again in Florida next spring for the wedding! Just as with my family reunion last month, we didn’t get a photo of daughter Ellie and our three grandkids. Next time, Ellie!

Bagging lighthouses

Even though our days were busy festing, beaning, and partying, we always found a few hours in the morning to chase down some lighthouses. “Bagging” (photographing) lighthouses is Eric’s goal when we’re on any coast.  We didn’t have a lot of time to drive, but there are so many lighthouses in Maine, we didn’t have to go far.

We packed a lot into five days. Now we’re home, trying to survive another week of 90-degree summer heat and, believe it or not, making a lot of progress on projects! I’ll get back to that in my next post—promise!



The short story of tall 108

In the corner of our bedroom, in the sliver of space between the driver’s side of the bed and the wall, is a tall, narrow table—a plant stand, actually—that serves as a nightstand. It came from my parents’ house, where it stood in their bedroom, skirted with a lacy doily and crowned with a large sanseveria (snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue). Ever since I refinished the mom-and-pop dressers I’ve heard it crying out for attention and nourishment. The whole table looks parched and brittle, and the top is blotched with water stains, which I can almost guarantee didn’t happen on my mom’s watch. Maybe it came to our family in bad shape. I don’t know its origin. It seemed to appear at some point during my early teens.

plant stand

While Eric was toiling away on the side porch in the 90-degree heat, I decided to give this little table the triple treatment of Murphy Oil Soap, Howard Restor-a-Finish, and Howard Feed-n-Wax—the same team that saved the dressers.

Murphy Oil Soap, Howard finish and wax

Besides, this was something I could do while sitting in the shade … lazy bum that I am. That’s when I turned the table over and learned that it’s table No. 108.

No. 108, plant stand

In just a few minutes the scratches and stains were gone, or very minimized. I might have been able to completely eradicate the water stains if I’d gone to the basement and searched out the steel wool, but like I said, I’m lazy. And it was 90 degrees.

Now No. 108 has a mellow, golden glow and it no longer looks parched. Much better, don’t you think?

plant stnd refinished

It’s hard to get enough light to take a decent interior photo in this corner, but No. 108 looks and feels so much better. It even blends nicely with the dressers, although I don’t know what kind of wood it is.

plant stand, end table

I tell you, Murphy and Howard work anti-aging magic. I have a birthday coming up … maybe they would take 20 years off my face?


Our hottest-day-of-the-year tradition

We’ve had a curiously Southwest-like spring and summer here in the Northwest, with a bone-dry June (June is usually soggy) that’s continuing into July. We had almost as many days over 85 degrees in June as we normally have all summer. Over the 4th of July weekend, we had our ninth day over 90 degrees, with several more to go. Many of us have lost our sense of humor about the situation. I’m finding it a little scary to think about how we and our landscaping will survive our normal drought period, late July through August.

dry plants, rose campion, Japanese blood grass, sedum autmn joy, blue fescue

However, this is the perfect opportunity for Eric and me (well, okay, Eric, since I am a hot-weather wimp) to continue a summer tradition of doing a major outdoor construction project during the hottest weather of the summer. Sound like fun??

Let’s see … there was the fence … and the deck … and the front porch … and the brick front walk … all constructed in 90- to 100-degree heat. Not by me!!

This year, we’re finishing the side porch, which, if you recall, we began too late last summer and had to put on hiatus for the winter.

Here’s where we began this spring, with Eric renting a pad sander and scrubbing a winter’s worth of oxidation off his custom-milled decking.

sanding porch decking

With an eye toward what we think will be a trim color when we repaint the exterior, we used opaque alkyd-based waterproofing stain in barn red on the porch floor. (I’ve always liked a red floor for a porch. The front porch is currently gray, but it’ll change when we get around to repainting.) Two coats should give it a good weather seal … we hope. [Note: The best way to avoid having your backside appear in a blog post is to make sure you’re behind the camera. Sorry, dear.]

alkyd porch stain

porch floor, barn red

Next, Eric framed in the big square corner posts that echo the design of the front porch. These posts don’t provide structural support for anything but the railings. The porch deck is supported by framing underneath.

corner post framing

Everything on the side porch matches the design of the front porch, except that this porch isn’t covered. It’s exposed to the weather, which is our main concern. The top rails are treated 4x6s. Eric patiently applied wood filler and sanded them to disguise the surface cuts.

treated 4x6 rails

Yes, I have helped a little on this project … painting, as usual. At this point, the opaque white-stained railings were merely laying on the framing. Duke wanted to know how far the schedule had slipped.

4x6 treated railings

Eric inserted additional framing to secure the hefty railings and to accept the plywood sheathing, which will be covered with cedar shingles.

corner post framing

Even though only the horizontal portions of the railings were up, it gave the porch a sense of enclosure and a preview of what it will feel like when finished. We felt like we were making progress. One evening while we were sitting in our living room with the French doors open, a couple of people walked by. We heard one of them say, “He’s been working on that for a year!” Well, hmph! That seemed to motivate us.

horizontal porch railings

I was excited as Eric began making the slats for the railing, because they are what give the porch its personality. The slats are 1×8, with a 1-7/8-inch decorative hole. These holes are probably the only round design elements on this decidedly square bungalow.

By this time, the temperature was really heating up, with 90-plus-degree days. The blue canopy was a smart purchase a few years ago. Standing in the shade makes the heat more bearable. Eric tolerates the heat far better than I do. I must admit, I spent large portions of the brutally hot days inside with the AC, pretending to be busy, while in reality I was watching golf on TV with a cool drink in my hand … as Eric toiled outdoors. Every now and then I called him in for a cooling break.

hot weather, canopy, table saw

But eventually it was my turn under the canopy, heat be damned. I painted three coats of white stain on the slats. The job went quickly because the heat dried each coat in minutes. That meant I could dodge back indoors before sweating too much.

porch railing slats, decorative holes

The slats are held in place between two rows of quarter-round, top and bottom. Small spacers fill the gaps between the slats so that winter rain (assuming we’ll get rain again someday) won’t collect in the trough and rot the railing. I still need to slap some white on the spacers.

porch railing slats installed

Now that the railings are complete, the porch feels like a porch, and is functional. We love looking out the French doors and seeing this awesome additional room just outside! It’s more than twice the size of the one it replaced. Plenty of room for our bistro set and a couple of other chairs. Duke and the cats love it.

porch viewed from inside, French doors, Lacy


porch, bistro set, Lacy

Over the next several days, Eric will build the top caps for the corner posts and shingle the walls to match the front porch. I’ll do some touch-up painting and planting. And of course, the construction debris needs to be cleaned away. Ditto the pile of saws, drills, and extension cords just inside the French doors. Only then will we be done. We’ve decided to eat a celebration dinner out here when that happens—not a moment before! We’re so close now! Imagine that—we’re about to actually finish a project!

porch without shingles

As I finish this post from my porch perch, Duke, Lacy, Tara, Checkers, and Peggy Sue have all joined me at various times. I think this porch is a success!

porch, computer, Tara Softpaws