Simple, Spiritual, Outdated Living in a Vintage New England Home on the Southern Coast of Maine

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Old Farm Christmas Place, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

This was my Christmas tree last year. You can read more about this tree and my past Christmas decorating traditions here and here

There are perks to using a vintage aluminum tree besides the sparking beauty and its mid-century kitschy glory:
  • It's environmentally sound because no trees are killed.
  • It was made in the USA.
  • There's no toxic PVC outgassing like contemporary artificial trees. 
  • You can save money by reusing the same tree year after year.

But the drawbacks? 
  • Pulling each branch out of its fragile paper sleeve and putting it in the "trunk" (121 times in the case with my tree) can get tedious. 
  • Keeping the ornaments, all 130 of them from falling is tricky, the reason being that the branches don't offer a place for the hook to settle and are conducive to having them slide off.  
  • I lost about three ornaments a year due to breakage from slide-offs.
  • Disassembling the tree and placing the pom pom branches back in the sleeves 121 times without damaging them is a drag. 
  • You can't string lights on it because it's a fire hazard which is why a color wheel is used instead. 
  • It doesn't fill the room with the aroma of fresh pine.

I have a smaller aluminum tree I considered displaying this year, but 2016 has been about breaking away from old traditions (ruts) and welcoming new ones with Wayne. We decided to do this instead:

I've never ever had a real Christmas tree! I never liked the idea of killing a tree to display it for a few weeks and then have it end up in the dump. But now I have a different perspective and want to explain why I gave up artifice for the real deal this year. But first, the field trip!

The Christmas tree farmhouse is from the 1700s. The attached barn is new addition but built to look old.

It was a very cold and overcast day but it was still beautiful to be outside in such a picturesque setting.

This puppy! That face! Happy dogs in sweaters make me smile and there were many families who brought theirs along.

It's a short walk to the Christmas trees.

You pick your tree from those that are tagged, tear off the bottom tag and pay.

I told Wayne I wanted a small tree, about four feet, to fit on a table. 

Look at all of the little tagged trees available! We were concerned that they would only have larger ones.

There were many more selections but we found the one we wanted!

We had them cut it down for us. Stand back! Timber!

Ok, a cute guy holding up a cute tree.

A staff member offered to take our pic for us. (The bulky sweater underneath my fleece and the way I was standing makes my hip look gigantic?!)

Another view.

A field of saplings with one fully grown tree?

The owner was super friendly and processed payments in that little shelter.

Trees and people hitched a tractor ride back.

They place the trees on this machine that gives them a good shake to remove loose needles. Afterward the tree is wrapped in netting.

Here's the gift shop which is inside that new barn addition.

Two ladies were making wreaths.

Someone else offered to take our pic. Everyone around us seemed to be in good spirits which was so refreshing after spending too much time immersed in toxic social media the past few weeks. Plus, fresh air is always a curative balm.

I realized that family owned local tree farms like The Old Farm Christmas Place can grow trees responsibly, be good for the environment and the economy by creating jobs. I loved being outdoors and around so many happy people. We're going to keep our tree out of the dump and lay it to rest and decompose in our woods after its glamorous table top stint.

Wayne's car smelled dreamy all the way home. It's really starting to feel like Christmas!

My absolute favorite part of yesterday was seeing Timmy's face literally light up when I plugged in the little lights and began to string them around the tree. He was on the floor with Wayne and stopped eating his lettuce to look up and watch with his one good eye.

I'll be back soon with pics of the decked out tree!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

The first turkey I've cooked in my new Le Creuset. Success! I kept it covered in the beginning then removed the lid so the skin could get crispy.


Turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed red potatoes with the skins, gluten-free stuffing made with crushed corn crackers, oats, celery, onions and raisins, homemade cranberry sauce and sparkling non-alcoholic apple juice. Everything is organic.

Let's eat!

That pumpkin pie I mentioned.

Wayne, his lovely daughters and their husbands.

I couldn't get him to sit still for a pic. Here he is eating a grape in his playpen.

I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for all of you who read my stuff and take the time to comment! Thank you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Maine Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I was talking to my 100 year old Nana on the phone yesterday and shared my Thanksgiving menu. She told me that she has never had pumpkin pie! She explained that she's an apple pie girl. I was the same way, which makes sense since no one in my family ever served it to me, until I had my first ever pumpkin pie last year and loved it. Wayne's family is coming over tomorrow so I have been busy baking and definitely will be offering a pumpkin pie.

For this recipe I initially picked three different pumpkin pie recipes from my vintage Maine cookbooks and created my own adaptation inspired by selections from each. Next, I baked a total of four test pies, each tinkered with to improve upon the previous pie. I guess we'll be eating pie for a while but fortunately they can be frozen!

Maine Pumpkin Pie

16 oz unsweetened pumpkin puree (170 calories)
2/3 cup organic sugar (550 calories)
2 large eggs (140 calories)
1 cup heavy cream (820 calories)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
9" pie crust, not deep dish (calories vary)

Place the pumpkin puree, water, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl and mix. Beat eggs by hand in a separate bowl, add the cream to the eggs and beat again before adding to the pumpkin mix. Mix by hand until blended. Gently pour into an unbaked 9" pie crust avoiding the creation of bubbles. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for fifteen minutes, then at 350 for another 45 minutes. When it's ready a toothpick comes out clean. Let the pie cool thoroughly before serving and avoid sudden temperature changes while it's still hot to avoid cracking. Garnish with whipped cream if desired. Makes eight servings with 210 calories each or ten with about 170 each not including your pie crust.

Wayne and I think this pie is DELICIOUS and definitely decadent. It's creamy, not overly sweet and has just enough spice! I also made some pie filling in ramekins. It's really good even without a crust.

What are your Thanksgiving plans for pie?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tiny Home Off-Grid Living: Life on a Maine Sailboat in South Portland

One of Wayne's colleagues in the marine industry lives on a sailboat year-round. When he first mentioned she lives on a boat I assumed he meant a houseboat. Nope. Skye and her husband Matt graciously accepted my request to see their home and find out what it's like to live on a sailboat in Maine where the winters get interesting.

You can't tell from the photo, but this incline is super STEEP because it's low tide. I had to hold onto the railing (and Wayne) on my way down. Immediately I flashed back to the 1998 ice storm when I was forced to sit to slide my way down a small hill; otherwise I would have wiped out. (Now that I think of it I want to write about that experience here at some point.) I was trying to imagine going up and down this walkway in January.

The water was calm and reflected the winterized boats parked on the pavement across the way.

The white plastic is shrink-wrapped around the boats similar to the way some Mainers, in an attempt to keep out the drafts, will lay clear plastic film over their windows and then shrink it with a hair dryer. Wayne explained that in the case with boats a large propane-powered heat gun is used. Although these boats above are housed here they aren't housing people like the boats still on the water.

The front entrance.

Our shadows strolling in the little neighborhood towards Skye and Matt's.

Some of the friendly neighbors, one of whom was leaning over to get a closer look at us.

Here they are! (I love their moccasins. I forgot to ask where they bought them.)

Cool! It's like a bubble boat shrink-wrapped in clear plastic to allow in the daylight and sunshine.

Discussing boats.

How's THAT for a "backyard"?

Low tide exposes things like the white marker and the earth beneath the water.

Home Sweet POLYNYA!

Come on in!

Inside! Yes, those are Christmas lights!

Wayne is very much at home on boats.

This is Farley, their Maine Coon cat who is only six months and lives on the boat with them. I'm generally not a "cat person" but he won my heart during our visit.

Wayne is definitely a cat guy. Awwww.

Let's take a look inside their living quarters. Watch your head as we step down the ladder.

Whoa! Look at those beautiful wood floors!

Yes, this is a cute and functional kitchen ("galley") with more impressive woodwork.

Dishes are kept in this clever drop-down cabint.

More hiding places.

Spice cupboard!

The sitting/dining room next to the kitchen looks like the inside of a groovy 70s camper which makes sense since the sailboat was built in the 1970s.

This cat.

Some more of the many wooden built-ins for storage.

The bathroom ("the head") has original mid-century fiberglass shades and light fixtures!

Pretty chill place to hang out. I asked Skye about the winter ice and she said that she does sometimes have to slide down that walkway and wears cleats. The docks also get icy which can be scary when they are moving with the water! Yikes!

Handrails for when the water is less than calm reminded me of those on the NYC subway only these are nautical chic.

The adorable master bedroom.

Bedroom storage.

The shower is in this little room next to the bedroom.

This is the entrance to the underbelly--the engine. Skye and Matt enjoy sailing after the winter thaw.

"Stay Afloat" and other necessities.

Farley takes advantage of the many nooks in which he can "hide."

After an hour visit the sun was four o'clock, people! That's northern New England November living.

Watching the sun set as we walked back.


To see more of Skye and Matt's adventures with sailboat living, especially the technical aspects, check out Matt's blog "A Life Aboard."

I'll be back sometime before Thanksgiving, but will be busy 'til then. I hope you enjoyed today's "field trip!"