Taking a Break

Gull at Pemaquid Point

Two weeks ago, Robert and I flew up to Maine for an end-of-summer vacation. We hadn’t been up there for four years, and decided it was past time for another visit. Robert’s sister lives in a small town near the coast, and kindly let us stay in her guest room for a week.

Off the breakwater at Rockland

I’ve always liked Robin’s place in Maine – there are flowers and a vegetable garden, and two fruit trees (only one of which has ever really fruited before), along with a good bit of woods extending back beyond the edge of the yard. It’s not uncommon to spot wild turkeys taking a shortcut through the back half of her yard, or come across a porcupine napping in one of the tall trees near the border of her land. She’s done some more work on the landscaping and gardening around the house, and all things green and growing were in full swing when we got up there.

Especially her peach trees.

There were so many peaches, the branches were starting to break under their own weight. When she sent me a picture of one of them, about four days before our vacation, I got ridiculously excited.

Robin offered to pose with the morning’s peach haul, to give a sense of how many I picked.

Apparently, my idea of a restful vacation is harvesting someone else’s fruit trees and cooking or canning as much as possible. I picked two baskets of peaches the first day we got in (we got in to her house around 4, and those only took me about 20 minutes). Then, the next day, I picked this.

The first round of peach scones, eaten duck-pool-side

A few days later, Robert and I transferred all of those into gallon freezer bags — and had to toss at least two bags’ worth, since some bugs had gotten to them — and tossed them in Robin’s giant chest freezer downstairs. All told, we ended up with 27 gallon bags, which we then whittled down by cutting and canning about 13 bags, and giving another two of the frozen peaches to a friend of mine (I also gave her four bags of fresh peaches…and one of the trees looked like I had barely made a dent in it!)

We ended up eating peaches in some form each day of our vacation: peach sherbet, cinnamon baked peaches, peach crisp, balsamic peaches and chicken, peach and mustard-glazed pork chops (altered slightly to use fresh peaches, instead of preserves), peach scones (twice), and peach oatmeal (traditional stove-top oatmeal, just using peach juice leftover from the canning in place of water or milk).

SO. MANY. PEACHES.

Peach and mustard glazed pork chops, with couscous and baby Brussels sprouts

I was a little worried how the two savory peach dishes would be received, especially since they were new-to-me recipes. However, vacations are for taking chances and stepping out of the ordinary, aren’t they? So we soldiered ahead, and they both turned out to be rousing successes!

[I did make tiny changes here and there to the recipes. In the case of the balsamic peach chicken, I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, cut the chicken a little smaller, and may have used more peaches and balsamic vinegar than originally called for, but it’s otherwise pretty hard to mess up. For the pork chops, we didn’t have onion powder, but we did find an onion and herb mix in Robin’s spice rack, so that was used instead. Also, I didn’t really measure anything for that one – just eyeballed it. I find cooking is a little more forgiving of sloppy measurements than baking is.]

Pemaquid Point

In between the peach madness, we watched almost the entire first season of White Rabbit Project, had a giant bonfire in Robin’s fire pit, watched and laughed at her ducks, swam a bit in the river/waded in the ocean, ate some really excellent food when we were out, and got far more sleep than I typically do. I also managed to finish my first pair of hand-knit socks, and visited a few quilt and yarn stores.

I highly recommend the following shops – all of them wonderfully stocked and diverse, with delightful staff and customer service:

Unity Fair

That last isn’t a quilt or yarn shop, but does make my list of recommended gift spots when you’re in Maine. They obviously specialize in soaps, but there are a number of other items inside the shop. The main reason I went was the selection of perfume oils they carry, all made in house. Robert and I had a tough choice ahead of us, and I ended up coming home with more than I had intended to…three for me, and one for a friend’s Christmas gift.

[I opted for Forest Wife, Honey Mint Tea, and Unicorn Farts for myself.]

Plucky, one of Robin’s Welsh Harlequins

Also, since I’m apparently in the mood for gift recommendations…Robert and I enjoyed some poetry while we were on vacation. I picked up Kate Coombs’ Water Sings Blue at the Farnsworth Art Museum gift shop in Rockland (we didn’t visit the museum, just the gift shop. Yes, I know, we’re horribly un-cultured) and instantly fell in love with her poetry, as well as Meilo So’s beautiful watercolor illustrations. The book was nestled among a selection of children’s books, but I think adults will like it just the same.

The other poetry we encountered was Karyn Lie-Nielsen’s Handbuzz and Other Voices. Robin happens to be very good friends with her (she works for Karyn’s husband, who makes beautiful wood-working tools that I think are works of art themselves), and placed a copy of Karyn’s work in the guest room for us to enjoy.

[Side note: Robin did a wonderful job of staging the guest room for us. There were maps for the local area, brochures for areas of interest, clean towels for each of us, fresh-cut flowers from her garden, and candy! It was like being at an inn, only with the added bonus of family and ducks!]

The back of one of the many dahlias at Endless Summer Flower Farm.

Karyn joined us for a visit to the Endless Summer Flower Farm in Camden, followed by dinner on the waterfront, which made for an absolutely wonderful evening. Good food, great conversation, and a beautiful view of the harbor? Can’t beat it!

Needless to say, Robert and I had a grand time on vacation and it was hard to come back to “regular” life (though we did appreciate seeing Mom and the cats again).

Oh! One last area recommendation! On our way back to Portland, we stopped for lunch at a little roadside trailer. We had originally driven past it, but Robert made a quick turn-around at the picnic spot just past it and drove back. It’s a little place called Y-Knot. It’s a mother-daughter-run spot that opened a little earlier this year, and I can not say enough good about it. Everything is made by hand – from the dressings to the desserts to the relish on the sandwiches. And when I recommend relish, you know it has to be good! They even make their own barbecue sauce! We chatted with Mindy and couldn’t stop raving about our lunch. Seriously. If you’re in that area, take the opportunity to go. Order the Farmer’s Knot. You won’t be sorry.

Southport Island

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