Rare Bird

We took the train north to Salem a couple of weekends ago for another visit to the Peabody Essex museum.  The morning was grey and chilly; the afternoon, rainy; and by the time we left the museum at 5:00pm, it was snowing.  Inside the soaring PEM atrium, though, it was bright and warm. We saw Unzipped, a documentary about the making of Isaac Mizrahi's fall 1994 collection, and a panel discussion featuring Iris Apfel that coincided with the Rare Bird of Fashion exhibit.  Iris and Robin Givhan, fashion editor for the Washington Post, had a lot of interesting things to say about the politics of women's clothes (especially for politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton). 

The gift shop was full of crazy accessories inspired by the exhibit: necklaces as big as salad plates, huge bracelets, lots of feathers.  I got this fascinator and wore it until we had to go back out into the nasty weather.

After the museum closed, we had an hour and a half to kill before the train home.  We walked over to a little cafe, lured by signs promising Aztec hot chocolate and a chocolate fountain.  I was initially skeptical about the idea of a shared pool of chocolate, but the proprietor assured us that it was sanitary.  (Also, it was free and we were starving, so that tipped the balance in favor of the fountain.)  We ate a bunch of chocolate-covered things, drank hot chocolate, and then ran over to the train station, where we huddled on the open-air platform waiting for the train back to Boston.  It was a fun winter outing--though, someday, I would like to visit Salem when it's not freezing cold.



It's no secret that Stephen and I are big-time fans of all things Scandinavian. We've been saving up for a while to take a trip to Sweden, the land of (some of) my ancestors. And we're rabid consumers of anything Danish, Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian that can be found stateside: IKEA, Marimekko, H&M, and the little Scandinavian import store we visited in Portland. Stephen even carved me a Dala horse last Christmas.

It's a particularly work-heavy time of the semester right now; I'm spending a lot of weekend hours in the computer lab at school. By mid-afternoon, I'm pretty burnt out, so we've recently adopted fika, the traditional Swedish ritual of sitting down for coffee and pastries with colleagues and friends. Around 4:30, Stephen and I head to the picturesque Danish Pastry House in Medford for mocha and cookies.

Chocolate-dipped macaroons may not be the most nutritious afternoon snack, but it's nice to sit in a warm and cozy cafe when the sun is setting at a depressingly early hour. If anyone knows how to brighten these short winter days, it must be the northern Europeans, right?



What would it take for me to really like Halloween?  Kids, I think. I need to have some kids (my own or someone else's) to take trick-or-treating, or a house (or someone else's) where I can give out candy to kids.  It just seems like a great holiday for children.  It was so fun to dress up when I was little and walk around town with a million other kids, collecting candy from people.  Our town had a big Halloween parade on the evening of the 31st, and everyone (families, college students, dogs, whatever) would get dressed up and march down Main Street in the dark to the firehouse, then disburse into the surrounding streets. It was always cold that night, and our parents made us wear winter coats over our costumes even though cats/angels/princesses obviously don't wear puffy jackets.  The best part (besides the candy and the dressing-up) was that my mom let my sister and I wear makeup to go with our costumes.  (This is a big reason that I was a fortune-teller for so many years: they have to wear lots of makeup.) The smell of certain lipsticks still makes me think of Halloween.

I've never enjoyed the holiday as an adult, though.  I like the idea of a Day of the Dead, but the grown-up, American version of the holiday seems to center around (1) violence (blood and gore, dismemberment, brain-gobbling zombies) and (2) skimpy outfits for women (sexy nurse, sexy pirate, etc).  Ugh.  Where is the creativity?  The way I feel about Halloween is the way many people feel about Valentine's Day: it's too commercialized.  I mean, entire stores go up for Halloween.  Even V-day isn't that bad.

So how did I, the Halloween Grinch (or Halloweenie, as a friend dubbed me), celebrate this year? I went back to the holiday's historical roots.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Jack-o'-Lantern of legend was a wandering soul who carried a carved turnip lit by an ember.  So we carved dracula turnips and hung them in the window.  Between that and our real live black cat, I think we did the holiday justice.

Maybe next year I'll find a candy-dispensing house to borrow.


Eat Donuts, Sleep, Read

For our Columbus Day trip this year, we drove to New York to visit my parents and siblings. You know those IndieBound bookmarks that say “Eat Sleep Read”?  That pretty much sums up the weekend.  I was still knocked out from a cold I got in September, and I spent 25 hours sleeping it off between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I visited the Village Tea Room with my sister, an Italian restaurant in Gardiner with my parents, got a bunch of take-out with Stephen, and had Sunday brunch at my parents’ favorite bagel place.  I finished up my September book and read through all of my mom’s back issues of Real Simple and O.

On Monday, Stephen and I went apple-picking (and zinnia-picking, and cider donut-eating) with my mom.  It was an overcast day, but the foliage was sparkling and the view was magnificent. 

We got Macouns, Cortlands, a couple of Empires, and one of the last few Macintoshes on the trees.  No Deliciouses, Red or Golden, because I dislike their texture and find them flavorless.  And their name seems like a marketing stunt, like naming Greenland “Greenland”.  I’ll be the judge of deliciousness.

Stephen thought the Goldens were pretty good, though.  Here he is eating one.

Afterward, we went to the farm stand and bought half a dozen cider donuts for the long drive back to Cambridge.  They were warm, fresh out of the donut-maker, so Stephen ate four of them in the first twenty minutes.  I can’t blame him.

When we did this around the same time last fall, I wore shorts and a t-shirt.  Hard to believe that now.  It was way too cold for that this time.  It feels like we transitioned very quickly from late summer to late fall this year, weather-wise.  I like it when October has warm days and chilly nights.  But this past month—in eastern Mass, anyway—it was just plain chilly.  We’ve already had snow twice!     



I’ve been in corn mazes before. A farm near my parents’ house grows one every year, and I’m always surprised by how disorienting it is. The paths are so narrow that you have to walk single-file, and the plants obscure and muffle everything outside the maze. It’s the perfect setting for a horror movie.

I also got lost (for a couple of minutes) in a real cornfield once, while playing tag with friends. It was late fall, and the plants were withered and brown, the stalks crackling around our feet. As we scattered in all directions, I got turned around and couldn’t figure out how to get out again. Eventually, I stood on my toes and looked toward the horizon. I saw the ridge that borders our town to the west and remembered that I’d come from the opposite direction. I turned and ran to safety.

So I’m no stranger to cornfields. But the maze we visited earlier this fall in Sterling, Mass, was by far the most elaborate, confusing, and complex I’ve ever seen. This eight-acre monstrosity took us over an hour to navigate. Apparently some people stay in all day, finding all the different paths to the exit. It isn’t creepy—the paths are wide and the maze is staffed by helpful people who’ll point you in the right direction if you get frustrated. There’s even a snack bar halfway through. We went with a large group that split up at the entrance; I stuck with Stephen because he is an excellent navigator, and was able to get us out in a flash once I was ready to leave (read: tired and whiny). He must have a compass, an atlas, and a topographic map hardwired into his brain—he almost never gets lost. If we drive somewhere just once (even if I’m driving and I go the wrong way or we turn around a bunch of times or it’s dark or whatever) he remembers the route forever.

I really don’t understand it. I mean, I’ve gotten lost at IKEA.

Which is why I don't go into cornfields alone anymore.



I'm not sure when I first heard about the madness that is the Brimfield antique show, but it's been mentioned to me several times since I moved to Massachusetts. The show is held three times a year, in May, July, and September. Finally, this month, I got a chance to go with Stephen and his parents.

Wow.  So much stuff!  Great old pine cupboards, pie safes, woodworking tools, luggage, boats, lanterns, jewelry, snowshoes, quilts, toys, butter churns, candle molds, fur coats--everything your grandparents and my grandparents and some of the stuff that their grandparents had.  Literal acres of stuff.  I'm glad I didn't have much money to spend, because that helped me filter out a lot of what we passed.  My only regret was not being able to afford a few yards of the vintage French ticking fabric we saw midway through the afternoon.  Like I need more fabric. 

I did get these great old shoes in one of the clothing tents for $5.  The proprietor had been carrying them around to show after show and couldn't find anyone they fit, so she threw them on the sale table.  Yahoo!

Such bargains are dangerous, though. I have trouble passing up any clothing that fits and is on sale, and I've got overburdened dresser drawers and several bulging boxes of shoes to show for it. I'm trying to pare things down a little. I took a bag full of underused stuff to a clothing swap last week and managed to walk away with just two new shirts. I've got a few nice things left that I don't wear much, so I made an appointment to consign them at a local second-hand store next month. The store offer consignors a discount if they spend their earnings there, which sounds like a recipe for disaster (of the not-making-any-money-and-buying-more-stuff variety), but my intention going into this venture is to put more thought and care into buying fewer, nicer things.  We'll see how that goes. 

I do like these shoes, though.



We had a breakfast-for-dinner party before school started this month.  The impetus for this celebration was a package of bacon that my sister and brother-in-law got us from a farm near their house.  I've been a semi-vegetarian for eight years (vegetarian from 2001 to 2008, pescetarian for the last year), but I decided that this gift of very special meat--local, cruelty-free, organic, reputedly delicious-- constituted an exceptional circumstance.  There was far too much of it for Stephen and me to eat on our own in a single meal, though, so we invited a few people over and made a local food feast with sliced cantaloupe and roasted onions and red potatoes from our farm share.  The waffles weren't local, but they were heart-shaped and delicious, thanks to Stephen's waffle iron and the apple pie spice our friends brought for the batter.

The drinks weren't local, either, although the limoncello was organic.  This is one my favorite warm-weather drinks: limoncello with cranberry juice, lemonade, and soda water.  Something with coffee might have been more thematically appropriate, but the menu was thrown together with what we had in the kitchen an hour before dinner, so we didn't have time for too many artistic flourishes.  We covered the table with butcher paper and lit beeswax candles in jelly jars for atmosphere.  I love the smell of beeswax.

I'm surprised to see us eating different foods out of our farm share this year.  Last year, we tried (though didn't particularly like) the kohlrabi and fennel, but ignored a lot of the boring staples.  This year, we've given away a lot of our weirder veggies (yes, I do think fennel is weird--that licorice smell!) and feasted on the everyday stuff: carrots and carrots and more carrots, eggplant, kale, garlic, potatoes and onions.  Mark Bittman has helped us out enormously with thinking of new ways to cook the same old stuff.  We've had fried brown rice with bok choy, stuffed kale leaves with fresh mozzarella, baked quinoa with potatoes and whole cloves of garlic.  We're definitely not true locavores, but we're doing what we can here and there.  I'm glad that the modern sustainability movement is becoming more moderate in its demands: eat less meat, eat local more often, buy organic when you can.  It's a lot easier to adhere to guidelines like those than to cut whole swaths of the supermarket out of your life.  I do try to avoid the Cheetos aisle, though.


Nap Time

I spent 24 of the last 48 hours sleeping.  What I thought was some weird new autumn allergy last week turned into a full-blown cold on Saturday evening.  I’d initially hoped to have recovered in time for work today, but ultimately spent the morning (and a good chunk of the afternoon) snoozing. Luckily, I don't have a fever, so I think I can safely assume that it's not the dreaded H1N1.  Iggy seemed to enjoy the company, even though I slept through most of the day.  He sat at the foot of the bed until I woke up at 2pm, then retired to his new favorite hang-out, the box that our digital bathroom scale came in.

I broke my self-imposed quarantine to go see The Informant! last night with Stephen and his parents. (Sorry, fellow Somerville moviegoers—I hope I didn’t infect any of you.) I don’t usually take note of movie soundtracks, but I thought the music added so much comedy to the film. Matt Damon just amazes me. How can the same person play Jason Bourne and Mark Whitacre with equal plausibility? (Acting, I guess.)

On a side note, if I haven’t mentioned this before, I love the word “movie”. It’s so old-fashioned. “Remember when we used to go see those still pictures at the theater? But now they’ve got these new ones that move!” I’d like to bring back the term “talkie,” too.


O New England

Well hello, End of August. The last month has been a whirlwind: a week and a half in Nantucket, a weeklong trip to Maine, a weekend wedding in New Jersey; over 24 hours of driving, three ferry rides, a bus trip, and a 45-minute flight on a plane the size of a large van. I also wrote two papers, participated in a mock press conference, handed in a group project, and squeezed in nine days of work at the office. August was a lot of fun.

There were some un-fun parts, though. Our car started making funny noises when we pulled off the highway in Maine, and we ended up spending a good chunk of the week finding a mechanic on Mt. Desert Island and getting it all back in working order. (By the way, if you’re ever in this bind, we highly recommend this place—the guy was great, invited my whole family back into the shop so we could see what he was doing, talked to us about health care reform, let Stephen listen to different parts of the car with a stethoscope.)

And there was the supremely uncool matter of having to write a paper while on vacation yet again. This is one aspect of grad school that I will not miss: all of the assignments tend to come due right in the middle of August, when my family and Stephen’s are on vacation. It was particularly difficult this year because the house where we stayed in Maine didn’t even have electrical sockets in some of the rooms--just a single light fixture that was wired directly into the wall. It was a beautiful old three-story house with wide porches, tons of windows and lovely old wooden furniture, but the electrical system had clearly not been updated in at least half a century. Which is what I usually like in a vacation house—something a little rustic, a place with history—but it’s not an ideal setting in which to conduct internet-based research.

There were awesome parts, too. The weather and water were warm enough to go swimming several times in Nantucket, and I rode a bike for the first time in years. In Maine, the weather was cool and crisp. We walked around Jordan Pond and spent a foggy afternoon in my favorite garden. On Saturday, we sat near the shore and watched huge waves caused by Hurricane Bill crash on the rocks. (That was before this happened, which might have given us pause.) And I got to catch up with friends from college (and do a lot of eating and drinking and dancing) at the wedding in New Jersey.

This morning, it’s rainy and cooler. The oppressive heat has finally broken. I find myself, surprisingly, starting to anticipate fall weather and the turning of the leaves. I’m not 100% ready for summer to be over, but I’m getting there.

P.S. The title refers to this great song. And since we're on the topic of the Decemberists, this video is pretty cool, too. And if you think that's neat, wait til you see this.


What's Up, Doc?

So it turns out I don’t have osteoarthritis after all. At least, the physician’s assistant at my doctor’s office no longer thinks I do. She diagnosed OA when I complained of knee pain at my physical last November. I think her exact words were, "Well, these things happen as we get older." Thanks a lot, lady. I'm 26!

Anyway, I tried her suggestions (ibuprofen, rest, ice) and didn’t see any improvement. If anything, the pain got worse, so I went back a couple of weeks ago for another exam. The PA twisted and pushed my joints around to test the ligaments, but everything seemed sound. You know when you have a health problem, and then you can't replicate it once you get to the doctor's office, and you think they think that you're making it up? I was worried about that. But then, right before the end of the appointment, my left knee started to swell up rather noticeably. Thank you, knee! So nice of you to cooperate. As a result, the PA gave me a requisition for some X-rays and a referral to a hotshot orthopedist in Boston. In the meantime, I’ve got this Ace bandage, and a new potential diagnosis: patellofemoral syndrome.

I must say that I’m relieved by this development. Not that I won’t end up with OA eventually--it runs in my family, and most people encounter it as they age, so I almost certainly will at some point. But I hope to live another decade or two before that happens.


Economic Stimulus

There’s a Marimekko store about a mile and a half from our apartment, in Huron Village. We’ve driven past it several times but have never ventured inside. This weekend, though, as we were on our way to Sofra for lunch, I noticed a huge “Final Sale Days!” sign in the window, so I convinced Stephen to stop on the way back and browse with me.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic Unikko fabric (sacrilege!), but I fell in love with this pink-on-pink version when I saw it in the Scandinavian shop we visited in Portland in June. I couldn’t reconcile myself to the price then (this stuff is not cheap), but I steeled myself this time and got enough to make a couple of pillowcases for the bed. We really don’t need any more pillowcases, but the fabric is so lovely and summery that I'm sure they'll be used frequently. I got this little glasses case in the same fabric, rationalizing that I’ve been carrying my sunglasses around in an old sock for the past year and am ready for an upgrade.

We got some birdy fabric, too, to make throw pillows for the couch. And then I saw this plywood tray, the same one I’ve long coveted in one of the pictures in this book (scroll down), and decided to be completely reckless and buy that, too. The staff seemed grateful to make a sale—they said business has been slow lately, but they’re encouraged that it will pick up soon because there are more smudgy noseprints on the outside of the windows when they arrive in the morning lately. Some of those noseprints, no doubt, were from me, although I didn’t admit it. Oh, Finnland! Oh, Scandinavia! How I love your homegoods.


Iggy Stardust

We got a cat! His name is Iggy, he’s six years old, and quite big for a cat. I mean, he’s tall/long, but also rather…plump. We’re going to take him to the vet and see if he needs to be put on a diet.

In the meantime, we’ve been bonding with this new addition. Iggy’s very affectionate and rather dog-like. He follows us from room to room, sits between us on the couch when we watch TV, and likes to nap at the foot of the bed while I'm reading. (To minimize the potential for allergic reactions, though, I always kick him out of the bedroom before going to sleep.)

The cat came to us from one of my co-workers. Her fiancĂ© is deathly allergic to cats, so her parents have been watching Igs since she moved in with him, but they travel too frequently to really take care of him well. My co-worker has been looking for a new home for Iggy for a while now, so this worked out well for all of us. I was nervous at first that Iggy would trigger Stephen’s cat allergies, but he's been okay so far (fingers crossed).

Iggy’s been really good about not scratching the furniture, although he has done some serious damage to the catnip mice we got him. Here are three of his toys (from right to left): a brand new one, a 3-day-old one, and a third that he’s played with for a week. Poor things. Thank God we don’t have real rodents in the apartment. As it is, we come home to every evening to evidence to the latest Catnip Massacre: little felt ears and tails and bits of stuffing scattered throughout the apartment.

But we don't mind too much.


Return to Georges Island

I can't believe it's been almost two years since our last trip to the Harbor Islands. This Sunday, we once again took the ferry to Georges Island. Stephen brought his pinhole camera along, which is what these photos are from. They're a little blurry, but I like the immediacy of the images. They weren't filtered through lenses or fancy digital settings. It was just the object and the film, and a tiny hole in a piece of cardboard.

Ads on the T for the Boston Harbor Islands say, "Minutes away. Worlds apart." I can't think of a better description--it's almost bizarre how tranquil the islands are, given that you can see the Boston skyline and the runway at Logan Airport nearby. After battling our way through the lunchtime crowd at Faneuil Hall, it was a huge relief to board the ferry and chug out into the harbor.

Located 7 miles from Long Wharf, George's Island encompasses 39 acres at high tide and 53 at low. According to the National Park Service, "The island sustained agricultural use for two hundred years until 1825 when the US Government acquired the island for coastal defense. Over the next twenty years, the island was dramatically altered and one of the country’s finest forts was built. Dedicated in 1847, the fort’s defensive design was virtually obsolete upon completion. However, the fort served as a training ground, patrol point, and Civil War prison that gained a favorable reputation for the humane treatment of its Confederate prisoners." Today, the fort is a National Historic Landmark, and is open to the public year-round. Boy, does it sound like I'm doing their PR or what?

But I love it there. Our visit always seems too short. I like to lie on the grass near the ocean for an hour or two and let my mind go blank. Then we spend some time exploring the twisting stairways of the fort and poking around the old granite outbuildings, trying to imagine what each room and structure was once used for. I invariably hear kids ask their parents if the island is haunted, which isn't surprising. It has the spooky air of a place that has lived many lives.

Lives that only ghosts remember now.


Midsummer Review

While looking at a gallery of reader-submitted vacation photos on the Boston Globe's website today, I realized that I have done a poor job of documenting my own summer adventures thus far. Stephen's camera broke a few weeks ago, so I'm sort of scraping things together here, picture-wise, but here are some of the Greatest Hits of Summer '09.


We spent half a week in early July in Acadia National Park with my parents and youngest brother. It was cool and foggy, much as it has been in Boston for the past 2 months, only more picturesque. In our four days there, we managed to squeeze in several of my favorite Acadian activities:

1. Sitting in the gazebo at Thuya Garden (my mother and I agreed that this is our "happy place"--the place you're supposed to think of when you're trying to dispel anxiety and slow your heart rate).

2. Hiking the 3 mile loop around Jordan Pond, followed by tea at Jordan Pond House.

3. Eating ice cream and sandwiches in Bar Harbor. (If you're ever looking for a quick and tasty lunch in the area, I highly recommend the cheddar/pesto/apple panini at Michelle's Brown Bag Cafe on Main Street. We had lunch there on Friday, then went back on Saturday to get more sandwiches for the ride home.)

4. Shopping at the Rooster Brother in Ellsworth, followed by dinner at the Mex, where I always eat way too much and regret it.

5. Walking through the Asticou Azalea Garden, followed by pastries from the bakery at the Colonel's in Northeast Harbor

On our last morning, the sun finally came out, so Stephen and I took a spontaneous hike up the South Bubble to Bubble Rock, which is even more vertigo-inducing than I remembered. Even Stephen wouldn't go near it.

Photo courtesy of themaclellans.com

Stephen's mom recently got two new baby chicks for her coop. They're now a couple of weeks old, and so tiny and soft, just as you imagine a baby chick would be. We've spent lots of time hanging out with them and feeding them insects and Cheerios. Stephen's poor dog is very jealous and can't understand why we lavish attention on little fluffballs that can't even do tricks. But we've got to enjoy them extra now while they're still so cute and easy to catch!

Cupcakes and the Children's Museum

Last weekend, we got dressed up in our fancy clothes and went to the Ritz-Carlton for cupcake tea. (These cupcakes are actually from Lulu's, but you can see the real deal on the hotel's website.) The cupcakes were delicious and gorgeously crafted, but five cupcakes--even five mini cupcakes--is a lot to take in one meal. I only got through three, and that took about an hour. Woo!

Afterward, we took Stephen's three little cousins to the Children's Museum, which I've never visited before. It was fun for all ages, but I wish I had come as a kid to crawl around on the New Balance Climb. Lucky ducks.

I've also been taking a couple of summer classes, reading, and wrapping up the fiscal year at work. Of course, I still have a zillion things I want to do before the fall. I think I'd better make a late summer to-do list, since the next 1.5 months are likely to go by as quickly as the last 1.5 did. At least the sun is finally out, so we can get down to the business of sandal-wearing and food-grilling.



It feels more like spring/fall than summer around here (though today is the summer solstice) so I made an apple pie on Thursday night. I was pretty sick last week, and didn't slow down like I should have--I kept going to the gym, kept going to work--so although the sore throat and congestion are long gone, I still felt worn out well into this week. On Thursday night, Stephen went out with friends, but I stayed in and sliced apples while listening to NPR. It was incredibly restorative. The smell of cinnamony things baking can correct a multitude of wrongs.

Making pie always reminds me of my first grade class back at Duzine Elementary. During Writer's Workshop one day, I raised my hand to ask the teacher how to spell "pie". She told me to try sounding it out first. So I did what you're supposed to do when you sound things out: I went through the word, sound by sound, writing each out phonetically.

What sound does it start with? Pa.
And then that vowel sound. Ie, clearly.
But if you say the word reeaally slowly, as you do when you're sounding it out, you'll notice that there's also a quiet ya that follows the ie sound.
Therefore: paieya.

My teacher had to laugh when she saw what I had written: "Way too many letters!" I remember thinking, after she spelled it correctly for me, that it would have been much easier for both of us if she had just told me the three letters to begin with.

My June book has got me thinking about housekeeping and homemaking. I don't know what the "real" difference is between those words, but to me, housekeeping is managing logistics: paying bills, changing the smoke detector batteries, putting up storm windows. The stuff that maintains the house as a functioning structure. Homemaking is much more abstract, complex, emotional, personal--the process of making the house into a home. Making the bed, planting a garden, baking bread, making conversation, sitting and reading. Certainly, there's a lot of overlap in the housekeeping/homemaking Venn diagram: taking out the garbage, for instance, is something that must be done, per contract with the landlord (ergo, housekeeping), and also makes the house much more pleasant to live in (homemaking).

What surprises me is how much I like doing the homemaking stuff. I guess, on some level, as old-fashioned as it sounds, I identify as a homemaker. Not full-time, clearly, but perhaps a homemaking... amateur? enthusiast? dilettante? Shouldn't be surprising, really, since every woman in my family subscribes to Martha Stewart Living, and we all love to bake. It's just something I've never put a name to, I guess.



We took the Downeaster to Portland, Maine last Saturday. As usual, we miscalculated our travel time in both directions, and ended up arriving atboth the Boston and Portland train stations with just minutes to spare. (When we got to North Station at 8:48 am, the man at the ticket window said: "You've got two minutes. Track 7. GO!")

One of our main reasons for visiting was to see the biennial at the Portland Museum of Art before it closed. We spent an hour or so afterward checking out the rest of their collection, and were impressed at the breadth of artists represented.

The first time we visited Portland, a couple of years ago, we didn't do any research beforehand and ended up wandering, hungry, around the Old Port for a while and then eating a somewhat unsatisfying lunch at an empty restaurant around 3pm.

This time around, we spent a couple of hours compiling a long list of places to visit from various web and print sources. Unfortunately, some were a little out-of-date, like the one that recommended a visit to the Portland Public Market, which apparently closed in 2006. Boy were we pretty surprised to peek in the door and find bulldozers inside!

Here are the places we visited, in case I forget before we go again:

Lunch: Walter's
Stephen got a burger, I had the Caesar salad. Both were satisfying. We sat upstairs in a quiet, sunny room.

Dinner: Flatbread Company
Louder and darker than our lunch spot, but the food was delicious here, too. We split one of their specials, a flatbread with asparagus, aioli, chevre and scallions.

Simply Scandinavian
I was so excited to see a Scandinavian import store on the map when we arrived. They had gorgeous (and expensive) Marimekko fabrics, imported sweaters, handpainted clogs, and shelves and shelves of Dala horses.

Leroux Kitchen
We tend to visit kitchen stores whenever we go on vacation. This one was pretty fun. I managed to stop myself from buying the heart-shaped Le Creuset oven (the thought of toting around an 8 lb. cast iron pot for the rest of the day was too much), and we left with just a garlic peeler.

Material Objects
Stephen got a pair of Clark's for $10 here, but I came up empty.

Places we didn't visit but hope to next time:

Maine Squeeze Juice Cafe
I was really thirsty after our trip to the museum so we ran over to Maine Squeeze, but it was already closed.

Beal's (or any other local ice cream place)
Cold Stone was the closest option when the ice cream urge hit, and the people there were super friendly, but I'd prefer something local.

This place looks fun, but I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Stephen to sip tea and get a pedicure with me.