Up the Coast of Maine

As I’ve mentioned before, Maine is a neighboring state I’ve spent very little time in. Short of a family vacation to Ogunquit circa elementary school, and a very brief stop in Portland a few years back in which more time was spent in traffic than in the city, I haven’t experienced Vacationland much at all. 

After completing an all-time favorite branding project for The Belmont Inn last winter, and further enticed by a Lord Huron concert happening in Portland, Jake and I decided to plan a July long weekend. We’d catch the concert first, head to The Belmont Inn, and round out the stay with some hiking up in Acadia and add another National Park notch to our belts. 

So last Friday, on the dawn of a heat wave, we headed North. We largely avoided the apocalyptic traffic of my memories and arrived in Portland just after lunchtime. It was hot there too. We strolled along the docks, up and down the hilly streets, and in and out of quirky shops. I lusted after summer hats and bags in Peyote Moon, and marveled at the branding (and bread) at Standard Baking Co. We noted many delicious-looking restaurants along they way; in case you hadn’t heard, Portland has good food. 

But we had reservations set at Little Giant over in the West End, which had come highly recommended by my girl Ariel. We were so glad that the restaurant brought us out of downtown, and into a quieter, more residential neighborhood that had all kinds of Maine charm. The restaurant itself was set just perfectly on a corner, door wide open and framed by cottage roses. Inside was minimal and classy, with the prettiest gilded cocktails to match. We ordered buttered radishes on thick toast, a citrusy farro salad, a dreamy green goddess salad, and salmon. Each plate was a gem.

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We headed to the Lord Huron concert over at Thompson’s Point afterwards, and the atmospheric songs seemed just perfectly set to the glowy sunset over the coast. 

After that was a sleepy drive to Camden, with one stop to pick up a toothbrush (my bad). We arrived at The Belmont Inn later than is typically courteous, but the lovely innkeeper, my Godmother Kim, waited up for us. It was so wonderful to see her. 

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Biased or no, The Belmont Inn is hands down the nicest bed and breakfast I have ever stayed at. Jake agreed. Tastefully styled, impeccably clean, delicious breakfast, complementary blondie treats, bursting gardens…I could go on and on. I was so proud that my branding represented such an excellent establishment; Kim had really made this place shine. We would have happily stayed three more nights. 

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But Acadia called! First, we spent Saturday morning around Camden, admiring the Schooners setting sail, poking around the local farmers market, and driving the top of Mount Battie to take in the harbor town from above. Camden is just adorable. 

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Heading up Route 1, we stopped in Belfast for lunch, another cute costal town. We wandered into Chase’s Daily, which was part farm market part restaurant, and marveled over the crates of fresh summer veg. I had a delicious cold cucumber dill soup, which was particularly refreshing in the sweltering heat. Maine was definitely not spared of the heat wave. 

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Back in the car, we continued to wind our way North, lobster shack after lobster shack guiding our path. Arriving in Bar Harbor a few hours later, we checked into The Primrose Inn. This was also a lovely accommodation, but we had definitely been spoiled by The Belmont. 

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Kim had given us a hot tip on the way out the door to eat dinner on the terrace at The Bar Harbor Inn. National Parks are amazing, but one typical symptom of these tourist inundated spots is that food options leave something to be desired. We took her word for it and found a great seat overlooking the bay, and were not disappointed. I enjoyed fresh fish tacos and Jake indulged in a lobster roll, and toasted blueberry sangrias as we watched every sort of sea vessel come in and out.

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After dinner, we took a walk on a “sometimes” path out to Bar Island. It’s a sand bar that only reveals itself at low tide, providing pedestrian access to the nearby island. Don’t get stranded though! We turned over rocks to hunt for crabs which was a good feeling I’d forgotten about. 

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The next day was just as hot, and although we were ready to start exploring Acadia, we nixed some harder hikes we had planned and decided it would be best to go easy. So we set off on the Jordan Pond Loop, an easy going three mile trail around the idyllic Jordan Pond. The views of The Bubbles (majestic butt-shaped mountains) were gorgeous, and most of the trail was shaded and pleasant. The only frustration is that swimming isn’t allowed at Jordan Pond, and it is borderline torture to hike around the crystal clear waters for hours on a 95 degree day. It was all too tempting. 

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Completing the loop, we arrived at the Jordan Pond House, one of the top-rated restaurants of any National Park in the country (I’ll say it again, this isn’t exactly a competitive category). They are famous for their popovers, of all things. We ordered up two popovers with a side of blueberry jam and a pair of blueberry lemonades, and they totally lived up to the buttery hype. The Jordan Pond popovers are not to be missed.

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But we were still very, very sweaty. It was kind of them to serve us, actually. If we couldn’t swim in the Jordan, we were going to need to find another water source. We scoped out Lakewood Pond, and took a quick dip before a little thunderstorm rolled in. It brought to mind that E.B. White essay

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After a good shower, we went to dinner at Project Social Kitchen & Bar. We had prime seats on a little front porch and enjoyed a spread of small plates. The crab cakes were some of the tastiest I’ve had. We took another stroll around Bar Harbor afterwards and finished up the evening at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, which offered genuinely creative flavors. Jake’s Cardamom Cinnamon was the winner.

We went to bed way early because our alarm was set for 2:00 a.m. That’s the time you gotta wake up if you want to hike to sunrise on Cadillac Mountain! We managed the early wake up call, which involved me blow drying my sports bra still wet from the pond swim (ew) and drove to the dark, dark North Ridge trailhead. 

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This was my first night hike and I wasn’t as spooked as I thought I might be. The headlamp gives you a sort of tunnel vision and I just followed Jake right on up to the top. It took us about two hours, and after seeing just two other happy hikers out on the trail, it’s a little strange when you arrive at the summit and suddenly find 200 friends. They all drove to the top and were awaiting the sunrise in the their PJs. I felt accomplished snacking on my granola bar, anyhow. 

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The sunrise was completely worth it - absolutely breathtaking. We watched the red, glowing ball hover above the water and all of its little islands, casting beams of color every which way. It was special. 

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We descended the Gorge Path, which was just beautiful and lined with wild blueberries. Did you know blueberries are the only thing you can take out of the park? Up to two quarts! We were at the bottom by 6:30 a.m. and had only one thing on our minds: blueberry pancakes. 

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Our needs were met at Cafe This Way, which served up two larger-than-your-face blueberry pancakes each complete with the crispy, raggedy edges. So so so so good. 10/10. Better than I could have hoped for. 

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We napped after that. 

And woke up for a carriage tour of the park! I was so excited about this. Acadia offers horse-drawn tours along the famous carriage roads designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Wildwood Stables is home to about 30 draft horses of all breeds that pull the carriages. This is a must-do in Acadia; all of the best views are from the carriage roads - it’s designed that way. And, we learned so much about the history behind the park along the way. Most importantly, I got to love on the drafties. 

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After a little more exploring and a visit to the picturesque Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse (and a cute seal sighting!)  we turned in early, still beat from the high energy morning. The next day we began the journey home - Jeeze, when did we get so far North? 

Our lunch stop en route home was by far the most highly anticipated food event of our trip. I’ve had a brand crush on Rose Foods of Portland LONG TIME, and wanted to try their bagels, too.

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Everything about this place. Is perfect. The unassuming brick storefront, the takeout menu, the little apple juices, the fucking tote bag. I fan-girled out (I wasn’t the only one, this is a destination) and then the bagel sandwich about put me over the edge. Art. I got The Good Deal, Jake got the Classic Nova. I wish I could go there right now and eat it all over again. 

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But instead, I’ve got a pink souvenir mug that is keeping me inspired for a restaurant branding project of my own I’ve got going on. Maine as a whole totally inspired me; it’s always refreshing to get out of your backyard. Glad I finally got up there, and can’t wait to return. 

Summer in 35mm

I did a lot of film photography this summer, hardly touching my DSLR once. In the age of iPhone auto focus and Instagram filters I admit film has become more of a pain in the neck, but man is it worth it when you pick up an envelope of freshly developed color prints and go through images you forgot you had even taken weeks before. The hues, grain, glow and imperfections (slight, hopefully) are something you simply can't reach with digital cameras, and it (almost) always feels well worth the extra effort and patience.

Here's a few of my favorite 35 mm shots I took on my Nikon this summer:

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(the roll from the Vermont Road Trip was extremely tragic, full of split frames, light leaks, and scratches. I like this "dyptic" though.)

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This week, the first roll of 120 film taken with my Brimfield TLR will be ready! Fingers crossed.

Vermont Road Trip

It was time to escape August humidity in the Valley and head North up 91, crossing the state border to Vermont. A summer road trip through the Green Mountains was something Jake and I had been planning since early spring, swimming holes and cool, green forest trails on our minds.

Our first stop on a journey through downpours up 91 was Quechee, to visit the famous Simon Pearce store. The 19th-century mill it operates out of is perched on a cascading waterfall, nestled into the quiet village. Watching the artisans blow glass was a mesmerizing process, especially in the cavernous, molten heat of the glowing ovens on such a dreary morning. It made me sleepy. 

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Next, we made a quick stop in Woodstock, which was a busy and charming town with lots of shops and cafes. We had lunch at Mon Vert Cafe, stacked summer sandwiches on golden baguettes.

Two highly anticipated waterfall destinations befell us along Route 100. The first was Moss Brook Falls, which offered both fanned and plunged falls right off the road. 

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The second was Warren Falls, a local favorite. We were stunned as we emerged from the pines and came upon this woodland oasis, ogling at daredevils jumping from high cliffs, flipping into the deep aqua pools fed by tiered cascades. Jake immediately ran back to the car to change into his bathing suit, but I was content to take photos being the mediocre swimmer that I am.

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The coolest part of this natural waterpark was probably this rock slip-n-slide. Perfectly sculpted for butts by water and time, it chutes you straight into one of the swimming holes.

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Our final destination Saturday night was Montpelier, where we found our quaint accommodations complete with a cookie jar and a black and white cat at the Inn at Montpelier. We strolled around the state’s capital and enjoyed a riverside dinner at Sarducci’s

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The next morning was my favorite breakfast stop of the trip at Down Home Kitchen. This place brings authentic Southern cooking way up North, in a community-minded setting with big, family style tables. My breakfast sandwich was served up on *the best biscuit I have ever had* - it was buttery and soft and crumbly in all the right places. And it’s a good thing I had a hearty breakfast because Sunday presented my biggest challenge - hiking Camel’s Hump.

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Vermont’s third-highest peak loomed in the distance as we drove up 89, the only crest touching the clouds. We parked at the base of the Monroe Trail, laced up our hiking shoes, and began the ascent. It was challenging but a breathtaking path through thick foliage, mountain streams, and geological wonders. My legs ached a few hours in and I felt the temperature dropping, but Jake kept me laughing the whole time.

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I won’t lie - the top was a little scary. The sudden exposure to whipping winds and vertical slate shocked me a bit, and the open views were dizzying. It took some encouragement but I made it up and over the hump, taking in the sublimity of it all through clenched teeth.

Jake had a Snickers bar stashed away for me when we made it back down, five hours later. Chocolate never tasted so good and I felt pretty accomplished.

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A highly anticipated post-hike evening in Burlington was next, and began with the most gorgeous pizzas at Pizzeria Verita. The zucchini, ricotta, and flower pie was almost too pretty to eat, but ended up being just as delicious. We finished up with some well-earned Ben & Jerry’s.

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We spent the night at Hotel Vermont, one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It’s rustic and classy and hip, with personal touches like handmade Vermont soaps and a Tivoli radio by the bed. Breakfast in bed the next morning was the highlight - blueberry pancakes.

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Barge Canal Market was our last Burlington stop on the way out, a vintage spot we’d been Instagram-obsessed with since we found them at Brimfield. They had an awesome space, filled with mid-century modern furniture and decor.

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Heading South down Route 7, we paused along the river for perhaps my favorite meal of the trip: peanut butter sandwiches.

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Seeing this sign along Route 125, we hung a quick left. We couldn’t pass up a place with a name like Texas Falls.

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And thank goodness we didn’t! This place looked like it was straight out of Middle Earth, with emerald waters and winding pathways, smooth white rocks and mossy trees. It was a perfect last taste of paradise.

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Who needs skis? Vermont in the summer is a wooded haven. I only wish we could have stayed a few more days.

Cucumber Days

It's mid-July and I'm elbow deep in cucumbers; they're filling the drawers in my fridge and many more continue to sprout off the vine everyday. They never stop - but they're so good. 

Picklers are the favorite around here, but I've never actually pickled. Anyone want to teach me?

Simple, delicious cucumber salad: cukes + feta + mint + dill + salt + lemon juice + olive oil. Although I'm thinking of trying something more advanced

The cuke abundance is welcomed as deep summer humidity is bearing down upon us; lately I don't want to eat anything but cold cucumbers anyhow. Keep them coming, and getting anxious for ripe tomatoes to join them soon!

 

Wildflowers

I've had a lot of daydreams around planting a cut-flower garden on the farm, drawing inspiration from some incredible flower farms like this one and this one. While a busy spring went by too quickly and left any potential flower beds untilled, summer has not been without blossoms. 

There's an uncut grove on the outskirts of the farm bursting with wildflowers right now, and I've been cutting bouquets and satisfying my flower garden dreams that way. Plus you can't beat their natural, uncultivated beauty. 

They're brightening up several corners of my home, reminding me that those flower bed dreams must be realized next spring. 

Summer Storms

The latter part of June has been filled with dramatic afternoon thunderstorms and vivid sunsets. Last night, building purple clouds brought sheets of rain and blowing winds, which soon gave way to gaps of luminous sunbeams, hail, more rain, and rolling thunder. The colors and transitions and textures were surreal, and I tried to paint a little, taking advantage of a quiet evening at home.

A Trip to Umpachene Falls

When it starts to heat up down in the Valley, as it does at the end of June, that means it's time to head for the hills. The Berkshires, that is.

Jake and I made a Sunday trip to Great Barrington and my favorite summer spot, Umpachene Falls. I love the Pioneer Valley, but whenever I head a little further west, I dream of my own little getaway tucked under Mount Greylock or along the Housatonic. The air is fresher out there, the greens deeper, and the woods thicker. 

Umpachene Falls in New Marlborough is what I've long claimed to be my "secret swimming hole", but it is hardly mine and hardly secret. It is quiet though, only very busy on the most oppressive days of deep August. Cascading tiers of smooth (but impossibly not slippery) rocks empty crystal waters into a natural pool, just deep enough to submerge and cool down in. A dome of pine trees towering above make it feel private; a summer oasis.

After a swim that was not nearly as cold as we thought it might be in mere June sunshine, we went into Great Barrington for lunch and strolling. I don't visit Great Barrington nearly enough. We enjoyed pressed sandwiches at Rubiner's Cheesemongers (He a tuna melt and I a comtè and ham) and then of course stopped for ice cream at SoCo Creamery (a scoop of blueberry-honey-lavender, a scoop of ginger). We wandered in and out of shops carefully considering blankets and walnut tables and local framed art, but I only bought a lovely yellow stoneware cookie jar from Farm & Home

We headed back East and watched the temperature rise again, and took a too-warm afternoon nap before dinner. It feels like summer alright. 

Harvest at the Summer Solstice

Days like yesterday are rare - and it was the summer solstice no less. Gentle sunshine, June-blue skies, warm breeze, and downy clouds with golden glow. The hay field swayed in celebration and crickets sang as the sun set. It was the longest day of the year, and call me greedy, but I wanted even more. 

The harvest is urging towards summer too. May and June have offered the freshest, crispiest, greenest salads, and will soon give way to more substantial bounties that beg the broadest of sauté pans. 

Lots of spicy pink radishes and lettuce in every shade of green. Is there any better color combination? (up for debate).

Cauliflower and broccoli are beginning to make an appearance. Cauliflower always remind me of Lucien in my favorite movie, Amelie - "Shhh! Il dort dans le chou-fleur!"

Tomatoes have a ways to go, but they are growing into their cages. 

Every night!