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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

· Top 11 Things to Do in the Portland, Maine Area ·

I finally have photos of my recent trip to Maine to share!  It's been a dream of mine to go to Maine for a while, and for the last year I've been having a hankering to go on a fun "girls trip" cross-country and thankfully my friend Kathryn was up for it, too. ;-)  I usually like to be super prepared and extremely frugal but this was my chance to be a bit more laid-back.  Which considering I had a list of locations to go to everyday and all the details for them... was only partially a success, I guess. ;-)

We stayed just outside Yarmouth, on the edge of a penninsula- complete with a private dock. :-) Yarmouth is right on the coast, 20 minutes north of Portland.  I looked up a few things to do before and we discovered a few of the things on this list while we were there. :-)

We flew into Portland airport, picked up our rental car, and headed off for our first bucket-list item:

1. Go blueberry picking!

I came across a recommendation for Libby & Son U-Pick Farms in Limerick, so we decided to try it out!  The blueberries were just coming into season when we went and I was so pleased the timing worked out so well.  Robert McCloskey's work was a huge influence in our desire to visit Maine, so naturally we wanted to get the Blueberries for Sal experience!  We definitely got it.  If felt just like the book! With the exception of bears. ;-)  Oh, but sadly no tin pails to go "kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk"....

Libby & Son was a fabulous experience and well worth the extra drive it takes to get there (about 1 hr from Portland)- the bushes are on the side of a mountain and the views are gorgeous!  The picking was great- everything was well-groomed and neat, and the golfcart rides up to the bushes are super convenient!  I felt so spoiled- it was almost as pampered as the "strawberry picking party" at Donwell Abbey in Emma. ;-)  The blueberries themselves were amazing and it's almost embarrassing how quickly 2 of us can eat 6 lbs... except that they're so chock full of antioxidants that it's a good thing we ate that many.  Right?

Not to be missed are their incredible blueberry donuts!  Now, neither Kathryn nor I are super fond of blueberry baked goods....  However the donuts came highly recommended so we took a chance and bought a half-dozen.  Oh. My.

They were SO GOOD!  Fresh, warm, light, and yummy!  By far the best donuts I've had!  They may not look like much (I was a bit skeptical that they really worth the raving) but wow! do they ever make up for it in taste!

I loved the excuse to drive inland more, since the majority of our itinerary was along the coast.  Our roads winded throughout the countryside and we had ample opportunities to admire the quaint old houses.  I do love the allure of older architecture....   Also, does everyone in inland Maine own a black vintage car??  We saw plenty!  Since we had plenty of time, we decided to be spontaneous and stop at a river that looked cool.  There was parking nearby and a little path through the trees to the edge of the river.  The water was comfortable and the area was so peaceful.

Our day ended with our drive back to Yarmouth and settling into our accommodations for the week- a refurbished airstream trailer!  We didn't get a chance to get many pictures of it, basically because we were enjoying it too much. ;-)  The exterior was adorable too- wish we had taken a few more pictures with the camera!!  I've wanted to go "glamping" for quite a while- I was so thrilled to be able to cross off yet another bucket-list item. ;-D

2. Picnic lunches on the coast

The next day we went down to Kennebunkport for the day.  It's a lovely town, but the downtown area has been built up into tourist central.  Lots of good shopping and food, but rather crowded and traffic was bad all day!  We packed a picnic lunch but there wasn't a good place to eat it in town so we walked down Ocean Ave. to the sea.  Well, turns out it was over a mile to walk before we got to a nice place to sit, which wouldn't have been an issue at all if I would have prepared in the footwear department... (you'll notice my footwear was ditched shortly after reaching our destination ;-))

The walk was entirely worth it however, our view was amazing and it was so relaxing!  We're both big fans of bread and cheese lunches, so we brought that along for our lunch.  A local mouse was apparently also fond of bread and cheese lunches.  We didn't get any photographic evidences of his (multiple!) attempts at hauling off our bread nor our startled/disturbed realizations of his sudden appearance in our personal vicinity.

But, really.  A view like this makes up for it. ;-)

3. Ocean Avenue near Kennebunkport

We returned to Ocean Avenue later in the day by car and it's a great drive!  Wonderful views of the ocean, lots of places to pull off on the side of the road, and areas to explore on foot!  If you make it to Kennebunkport, make sure to go a little bit off the beaten path to explore this area! (and dream about the real estate....)

4. Have a Lobster dinner!

Of course, what's a trip to Maine without lobster??  Yeah, that's right- nothing.  I looked up the best place to get an authentic lobster dinner and Nunan's Lobster Shack got great reviews everywhere.  They're less than 10 minutes from Kennebunkport (15 if you take the scenic route along Ocean Ave.) and definitely off the beaten path!  It's not somewhere you'll happen upon, but it's a popular favorite judging by their full parking lot!  We were concerned about waiting when we showed up at 6:00, but since we were only a party of 2 we got seated immediately.

I wanted a more authentic experience for our dinner- after all, it's not really a clean meal to eat!  Nunan's delivered on that!  It truly is a lobster shack and has been from day 1.  However, it's super clean!  Win, win. :-)  Huge points for the atmosphere and the food was good, too!  It was my first time eating lobster at all, so I don't really have much to compare it to... but it was good!  And we successfully ate our lobsters without making too big of a mess. ;-)

5. Wiscasset and Boothbay Harbor

The next day, we were off to Boothbay Harbor for the day!  Along the way, we stopped in Wiscasset to do some antiquing and window shopping.  Wiscasset was one of our favorite towns- smaller and less touristy than Kennebunkport and oozing charm. :-)  One of our lodging options for the trip was a B&B in Wiscasset... I think I'd love to do that sometime!  We also admired real estate here and plotted our lives as little old spinster aunts in a cottage here in 30-40 years. ;-)

Sadly, some of our very favorite places to visit are the ones we didn't get photos of.  But that's kind of how it goes- you're too busy soaking up the moment and making mental photographs to take the time to get any pictures to share with others!  So you'll have to take my word for it and go visit yourself. :-)

Boothbay Harbor was... grand.  I loved the area!! (again- no pictures. We were too busy soaking it all in!) The town itself was super busy like Kennebunkport but the location is fabulous!  The area reminded me of One Morning in Maine- all the little islands in the harbor, each covered with conifers and each with a few charming vacation cottages.  The iconic New England steepled churches.  Sigh.  Loved it there!!  The further north we went in Maine the more I loved it, so I'd love to go back and see Bar Harbor and Acadia since I've heard such wonderful things about them! :-)

6. Burnt Island lighthouse tour

Our reason for heading up to Boothbay Harbor was for the Burnt Island Lighthouse Tour.  Highly recommended!  The island is a few miles out from the mainland, so it's only reachable by boat.  Well, or canoe.  But we aren't that good.  The lighthouse tour is run seasonally by Balmy Days Cruises and takes 3 hours.  2 1/2 hrs are spent on the island; reenactors portray the lighthouse keeper and family from the 1950s and the program was very well done.  It includes a tour of the home and the chance to go up in the lighthouse as well as an hour or more of time to explore the 5 acre island!

This was one of our very favorite things we did!  Exploring the island was great fun- we quickly discovered that if our day included "scampering" on rocks, we were happy as clams. ;-)  It was so peaceful and quiet on the island- just my style!

7. Lighthouse tour of the Portland area

Our 3rd day was spent in the Portland area going on a lighthouse-spotting tour!  I found driving directions online here and we were off!  The directions were good and made for an enjoyable trip.  If I was doing it again, I'd recommend starting earlier than we did....  Arriving at Two Lights (picture below) anytime after 11 means minimal parking is available.  The lobster shack there is super popular, so go a bit earlier to avoid traffic jams!

Next up was Portland Head Light- the biggest crowds here, but still enjoyable!  And, well, it is the most well-known and gorgeous, so you have to go, right?!

My personal favorite lighthouse was Bug Light.  That Greek Revival influence is right up my alley!

8. Lobster rolls! (of course!!)

While we were at Portland Head, we made a point to stop at the local food truck, Bite Into Maine, for lobster rolls!  Eating lobster rolls in Maine is a must and I wanted to be sure that we went to the place with the best reviews.  Lots of places rank high, but Bite Into Maine seemed like just what we were looking for.  It's not a cheap lunch, but oh my is it GOOD!!  I'm salivating just thinking about it....  Toasty buttered bread, tons of fresh lobster meat, just a bit of mayo, and a sprinkling of green onions.  Heaven!

We were able to take our rolls down to the coast to eat them on the rocks.  Gentle, cool breeze.  Warm sun.  Stunning lighthouse in the distance.  Sea spray.  Yep, it was wonderful. :-)

9. Eat Ice Cream!

Maine is known for its ice cream, so naturally one must do full justice to such a reputation, right??  We got some at a shop in Kennebunkport (one of many available!) and look how big they are!  Their claim of being "1 scoop" seems a bit far fetched... but that just means that only 1 scoop of calories counts, right? ;-)

We got some more ice cream at Toot's just outside of Yarmouth as well.  No pictures of that since the cones were so huge that we had to eat them quickly before they made a mess!  Oh, the trials of it all....  Another great place for ice cream- and lots of great flavors!

10. Explore downtown Portland

Our final day was spent in downtown Portland.  We wanted to do a bicycle tour of Peaks Island just off of Portland, but the ferry times weren't working well with our schedule.  So we just wandered the town!  It's very "up-and-coming" and has lots of fun shops in great old buildings!  I think this was the one day I wished I had more planned as we didn't have enough to do to fill our time.  I'd recommend spending 2-3 hrs exploring the area, but unless you're a big shopper, you won't need more time.

We did find a great place for lunch, though- the Portland Lobster Co.  The clam chowder was great and the location was wonderful!  We ate at a counter right on the wharf and we had the perfect day for soup- cloudy and cool but no rain!  We also adored their decor and logos- perfect retro vibe!

We finished off the day before catching our flight with donuts at The Holy Donut- yummy!  But also super busy, so be prepared for a line!

11. Take time to enjoy the coast!

Maine is all about nature, so take plenty of time to explore it!  I'm not a big sand person, so all the rocky coasts were my favorite!  I never get tired of scampering around and exploring in areas like this! :-)

Portland Head Light



Oh, and since this is a sewing blog after all.... here are links to detail posts for our outfits!
My BBQ Dress
My 50 States Dress
My Fruit Dress
My Navy Polka-Dot Dress
Kathryn's Nautical Outfit
Kathryn's Gingham Dress

· Photos by Kathryn- mixture of camera and phone shots :-) ·

Thursday, August 20, 2015

· Chinese Parasol Dress ·

· Edit 6/2016- due to closet shortage, I have to pass along some of my clothes!  This dress is currently for sale in my Etsy shop ·

This dress steps out of my "normal" a bit.

It's only vaguely retro-influenced.  Shocking!!  I loved this Chinese parasol print at JoAnns, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little Chinese flair. :-)

I used Simplicity 3877 because it had a mandarin collar, and the diagonal seaming on my dress is just an illusion created with narrow bias tape.  I made the frogs myself from cord because I was appalled with how expensive they are to buy!  I also wanted a simpler style than I could find, so.... making them myself it was. ;-)

Pockets are always a good idea.

The star of this photoshoot- our wonderful parasol!  I love it!

I made this dress 5 years ago and it's gone in and out of favor in that time.  It's never been an absolute favorite and there have been a few times when I've contemplated selling it.  Well, that day may come again, but for this year it's experienced a revival of favor with me. ;-)  It's kind of fun wearing something besides my crinoline and 50s dresses, but even on the best of days, I still miss my crinoline. ;-)

I edged the neckline and sleeves in very narrow hand-sewn bias tape.  The narrower it is, the happier it makes me! ;-)

The dress closes down the back with an invisible zipper.

This hat is not remotely Chinese-inspired, but until I can find a suitable replacement, it coordinates remarkably well with this print!

A bias fabric belt completes the look!

The skirt features godets in each panel, and it creates a flattering, fun skirt!  I feel like this dress can be 1930s inspired or 1950s inspired, but well, it's also pretty modern, too.... ;-)

Oriental styles were hot in the 30s and 50s and this is my first and only such style.  So far, anyway!  I'm dreaming of a fancy brocade dress for the winter.... we'll see if it makes it to fruition this year or if the perfect fabric will yet again elude me. ;-)

· Photography by Kathryn ·

Thursday, August 13, 2015

· Birthday Tea Party ·

This isn't my normal, predictable sort of post, but I thought our tea party this month was worthy of a post. :-)  We had some friends visiting around our "birthday season" (3 of the 4 birthdays in our family fall within a 13 day period), so we took that as a sufficient excuse to have a tea party. ;-)  There's something addictively fun about making more-than-usually cute food and pulling out all the fun china and serving dishes!

Our place settings included the plates my parents picked out for their wedding registry.  They are a simple white octagonal design from Johnson Bros. and they've proven to be extremely versatile and classic throughout the years.

The tea cups are part of my fledgling collection of pink depression glass.  I have a post about the depression glass I've collected from estate sales in the works, so I'll keep it brief this time!  I'm only buying when I find great deals and I'm open to a mis-matched set- I currently have 3 different styles of cups and saucers and I think depression glass is actually rather charming when mixed up! :-)

The tablecloth and napkins were a fun, frivolous purchase from an antique mall.  We love decorating with this tablecloth- the embroidery is so stunning!

My sister enjoys folding napkins for special occasions and we all enjoy the fruits of her labors. :-)  A Crown fold highlights the embroidered corner of these napkins perfectly and starched napkins ensure crisp, neat folds!  Unfortunately... I forgot to get a detail shot of the napkins.  Oh well. ;-)

Our 3-tiered server displayed the savory treats: Cucumber Sandwiches and Fish-Paste Sandwiches.  We may or may not have been extremely interested in trying fish paste sandwiches after watching the adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Sad Cypress"... ;-)  I'm pleased to report that our ventures into fish-paste were a success and they've made it onto the "repeatable" list!

Fish-Paste Sandwiches

Adapted from a recipe from Yummly

6oz can salmon
1/2t black pepper
3T cream cheese
1T mustard
1T butter

Mix together using fork or food processor, spread on white bread to make sandwiches.

The last tier housed one of our favorite recipes: Rosemary Parmesan Scones.  These are a must-try!!
The chocolate-covered strawberries are always an easy addition to a party and this time we used a mixture of chocolate candy melts and chocolate chips- I think we achieved a good compromise between taste and firm-enough chocolate coating. ;-)

Rosemary Parmesan Scones

Recipe from Tea Time magazine

2 1/2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. chilled butter
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 T. dried rosemary (or 3 T. fresh)
3/4 c. (or more) milk

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add cheese and rosemary and combine.  Add milk and stir, using more if needed until dough holds together.  Knead dough 8-10 times (this step makes the flaky layers).  Gently shape into a circle about 3/4" thick and cut into 12 wedges.  Bake at 375° for 16-20 minutes or until tops get lightly browned.

Brush tops before baking with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.

Our official dessert for the day was also a new, successful recipe!

Lemon Curd Tartlets

Crust from Williams Sonoma

1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
About 1 1 /2 cups lemon curd (see recipe below)
3 or 4 kiwis, peeled and thinly sliced
Mint leaves

Preheat an oven to 375ºF. Butter four 4 1/2-inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms. 
To make the crust, in a food processor, combine the gingersnap crumbs and butter. Pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture starts to clump together. Remove the crumb mixture from the food processor and press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the prepared tartlet pans.  Bake until the crusts are set and begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool. 

Remove the cooled tartlet shells from the pans and gently spoon the curd into the shells. Arrange the kiwi slices and mint leaves on top.

Lemon Curd

Juice of 4 lemons (1c)
Zest of 4 lemons
4 eggs, beaten
1/2c butter, cut in small pieces
2c sugar

In the top of a double boiler, combine all ingredients.  Place over simmering water and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and smooth.  Lemon curd will firm up slightly when cool, but for the tarts it is nice to have a slightly thicker consistency.

Yield- approx. 1 pint
Lemon curd can be stored in the fridge, however if you are making in bulk, it freezes excellently too!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

· 1950s Nautical for Kathryn ·

I'm getting to be quite jealous of Kathryn's wardrobe lately.  Which is quite silly considering I'm the one making it. ;-)

Long-time readers will know the back-story of why I make her vintage and historical clothing: she's a dear friend and we've worked out a system whereby she is my Personal Photographer and Website Mistress and in turn I make her clothing.  You can see some of her previous requests here.

A few months ago, we made the decision to take a fun girls trip to Maine and naturally, this was the perfect opportunity for a 1950s nautical outfit! ;-)  (oh, and I promise I haven't forgotten about sharing photos of Maine!  My life has been..... crazy since being back so a re-cap of the trip has taken the back burner!)

We had stunningly gorgeous weather every day, so we had our pick of when to take outfit photos!  Portland Head Lighthouse seemed like a pretty wonderful backdrop and as you can see, it didn't disappoint. :-)  After taking these photos, we got lobster rolls at Bite Into Maine (a cute food truck parked near the lighthouse) and took them down to the rocky coast to enjoy our seafood with the salty spray crashing beside us, a great view of the lighthouse, and very few other tourists.  Amazing!!

Anyway... enough spoilers from the vacation post!  Time to get back to the outfit!

I used Simplicity 2154 yet again for this blouse!  I changed the neckline and added buttons down the front, which in turn meant I could eliminate the back keyhole opening.

The big fluffy bow is just safety-pinned on, so the blouse can be worn without it and the bow can be used for other outfits.  It's made from one layer of the skirt fabric and I decided to cut it on the straight of grain.  I'm not quite sure why I decided that?  Might have been due to fabric shortage, but I think it looks good like that anyway. ;-)  I didn't use a pattern for it, just eyeballed about what I wanted it to look like and cut!  Ok, yeah.  I measured a lot, too.  And made a few mock-ups.....

I was so tickled to find these stripey buttons at Hobby Lobby!  They add the perfect touch!

An on-seam pocket for practicality- after all, what's the point of having a full skirt without taking advantage of the suitability for pockets?!  There is an invisible zipper on the other side.

The blouse is made from a lightweight linen/cotton blend from JoAnns.  This is the 2nd project I've used this for, and I'm so pleased with it!  It's also surprisingly cheap for JoAnns and with coupons, is a steal!

The trim is 1/4" wide satin ribbon- turned wrong side out so it's not as shiny.

My favorite method of finishing off these armholes is to cut facings rather than using bias binding.  I usually make my facings so they're about 3/4"-1" wide when finished and I love hand-sewing them down.  A neat, smoother finish than bias binding allows for. :-)

This skirt is made just like her red one with slightly narrower pleats.  It's made from a polished cotton and is lightweight enough to be great for summer, while still having enough body to look professional.  I am sensing a dire need for several such skirts in my wardrobe now.....

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