The Lake: Maine Style

So, my husband is from Maine, and I consider myself a transplant even though currently he’s living in New York for work. I told him the minute I saw Maine, that I would definitely move there if I got a house on the lake. Haven’t quite secured that one yet, but the more time I spend on the water, the more certain I become of it’s future existence. We love to travel, but home is definitely Maine with our family (blood or otherwise).

Last week was a tough week for us. It was the anniversary of a life cut too short. We got together to celebrate a life, and mourn our sadness about the year spent without our fearless leader. The one who kept all of us “ducks in a row”. The one who was never afraid of an adventure, even if the roads were sketchy and the steps were +/- 700 down into the abyss. We may have laughed, we may have cried, and we may have sent fire messages into the unknown. But we were together and we were loved. We move forward, but we certainly never forget.

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At 9pm the night before our day at the lake, we made homemade cucumber jalapeño margaritas. Recipe If you make them ahead of time, they get spicier! Bill loved a good margarita.

Panther Pond 2018-4645Thankfully, there are no pictures of me and my first attempt at paddle boarding. I know they are out there, hoping they don’t show up on social media! But if they do, I own it. Paddle boarding is not for the birds! The black and blue marks on my knees are proof that I need a lot more practice. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun, I’ll try it again. But I am a far cry from those amazing people who do yoga on their boards. We did go kayaking though! And that is one of my favorite things. If you get the chance, Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine is a spectacular lake! It’s quiet, clean, large enough for motor boats, but not so large that kayaking gets scary or dangerous.

Fishing, boating and family time, including some, but not all the kiddos.

I swear he lives 500 miles away – I guess this one is just genetics!

And to round out the rest of our week: (I worked, he was on vacation) We played board games with our friends, visited family, tried this disgusting bourbon drink (it has Montreal steak seasoning on the rim – it mostly tastes like liquid Montreal steak seasoning). Got a little loving from the fur kids, had bourbon and hard seltzer with Uncle Charlie, ate dinner out at a few of our old haunts with friends and family. Had lobster, cooked and eaten the right way (ie: cook it at home, fresh, outside. Eat it outside because it makes a huge mess!). And mostly just ran around to see as many people as we could possibly fit in. If we missed you, we are sorry. If we got to see you, it was a blessing. And if you’re just looking for some great recommendations for lake vacations in Maine, we highly recommend Kool Palms Travel or Vining World Travel

In loving memory of Bill Vining. You may be gone, but I still swear at you when I go through every road construction site. (Especially the bridges – I know you’re taunting me)

Adventure, Nature, and a few Fairy Houses

Another great birthday adventure in the books. Honestly, I think I have as much fun as the kids. Maddie: “How do you know that fairies exist” Me: “I don’t, I just believe”

Like every great early start to a birthday adventure…we started with donuts. I mean come on, who doesn’t love donuts. And it’s a really good excuse to eat them on you adventure day where anything goes!

Once we fueled up, on a sugar high, we headed to Mackworth Island to adventure. Mackworth Island has a trail around the island and it’s scattered with fairy houses. We went to enjoy the outdoors with a “hike/walk” breath in the fresh air, and get some inspiration for building our own fairy houses at home. If we caught a fairy, even better. We found a wing, rescued one from being eaten by a bird, and caught (but released) a third. It was magical.

After our adventure, collecting our treasures, and re-fueling again. (this time sandwiches) we headed home to build our own fairy houses. Here is the grove we created, we hope to attract our own magic.

We made a little magic this day! Possessions are just things to be forgotten, but memories last a lifetime. I love making memories with them, even the silly, fanciful, magical moments.

Girls Weekend: New Hampshire

IMG_3746Sometimes it happens every year, and sometimes there are a few years in-between, but there is a group of ladies that surround each other with love, laughter and kindness, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of this joyous group. On and off for the last 18 years, some or all of us gather together for a weekend and share in great food, great company, and some outdoor adventure. This year we rented a place on the lake in New Hampshire.

Even though it was too late to go ice skating and too early to go boating, it was warm enough to hang out on the deck in the sunshine and hike in the woods. We spent a little time in the Fox Forest and visited the Virgin Forest (a grove of hemlocks that have never been cut). Our two little furry friends loved our walk around the lake and hike in the forest. There was still snow on the ground and the trail was pretty muddy, but the woods were rejuvenating with their moss covered boulders and large uncut trees.

Back at the house we played a few rousing games of Blokus, did a couple tarot readings, ate some amazing food, had a crazy dance party, talked, read, and laughed. There is nothing more rewarding then having a group of friends you can be yourself with. As an introvert, it’s usually draining to spend time in groups. However, this group of ladies and our weekends away always leave me refreshed and rejuvenated.

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So if you’re looking for some advice on great get-a-way ideas with your girlfriends, I recommend the following:

  1. Look at places centrally located between all of your friends. We live in Maine, NY, and Massachusetts. So we aim for New Hampshire a lot. We looked on Air BnB and Home Away. This gave us the opportunity to have a whole house to ourselves.
  2. Save money by cooking in! We love sharing food together so we each take a meal or two and split the cooking and cleaning. Renting a house means you have to do dishes and cook. So if that’s not your thing, look for weekend deals or specials in places where you can eat out or an all-inclusive where everything is taken care of.
  3. Look for places that allow pets.  Three of the four of us have furry kids. We all love outdoor adventure and often our fur kids come along. One of the benefits of renting a house is that our fur kids can join in.
  4. Plan around something to do. Sometimes we like to just stay in, but we always make sure there is something nearby to get out into nature. The four of us love to hike and kayak, so our trips are usually planned around somewhere that we can be outside. Some years we camp, some years we hike in to a cabin, and other years we kayak camp. If you’re not a nature loving group, research the areas around where you are staying to find things you might like to do.
  5. And last, but most important. Find a group of friends you can be yourself with. People who enjoy doing things you like to do. People who are easy to be with and bring you joy and happiness.

Family Birthday Adventures At Kalahari

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We love to do birthday adventures with our nieces and nephew. Our littlest niece turned 4 in March, so we packed up and drove to Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos. It’s about 3 1/2 hours from Rochester and a pretty simple drive.

For this trip we opted to rent a family suite and the whole family came along! I’ll be perfectly honest, it was nice to have 6 adults to 2 kids in the waterpark. It’s busy in there and it takes a lot of attention to keep watch on the kids. My 4 year old niece loved the slides in the kiddie section. She went down the slides over and over again and was happy to take any of the 6 of us down the slide with her! She had a bright smile and loved every minute.  Her 6 year old sister loved the wave pool. She didn’t want to get out. She also loved the indoor/outdoor hot tub. It was cool to duck under the door and be outside with the snow and cold.

The adults loved the Paxton Grotto swim up hot tub bar that was also indoor / outdoor. Since there were 6 adults we took turns with the kids while the “big kids” did some of the bigger slides. I vowed that I would try any slide that Frank did. He’s more of an adventurer/risk taker than me. You know you have to try it when your almost 60 year old dad is also doing all the big slides! My sister and I along with Frank and my dad also did some of the big 4 person slides! There was a little bit of screaming, a lot of eye closing, lots of laughter! The cheetah race was one of our favorites. We did that one over and over again trying to get better times and racing each other. At first I was a little concerned that I had to go head first down a slide, but it is so much fun! The Tanzanian Twister was fun. I think I now know what it feels like to get flushed! I wasn’t sure where the bottom of the slide would come out, but till you get into the funnel at the bottom you realize there is just a hole that you drop out of. It’s slow, but 2 out of 3 of us came out head first! It was very entertaining to plop head first into a deep pool at the end.  There were so many big and little slides at the park it is fun for everyone. If your not a ride or slide adult there are plenty of chairs and tables to sit at, hot tubs to dip in, and a few bars to grab a drink.

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The family suite is probably good for 6, it was a little tight for 8. Someone has to sleep on the pull out couch in the living room. The downside is that you have to be the last one to bed and the first one up. We had plenty of counter top space for food and snacks and a mini fridge for cold stuff. If you’re all coffee drinkers, I would request more coffee for 8 people or bring your own filters and coffee. There is 1 chair, one couch and 3 chairs at the table. It’s a little tight for everyone to have a seat when you’re hanging out, but there was plenty of room to camp out on the floor if the bed is folded up.

We had dinner at Sortino’s Italian Kitchen, where it was easy to find something that everyone liked. We had pizza at the waterpark the first night for dinner. I was surprised, but the other restaurants in the water park didn’t appear to be open for dinner. We grabbed lunch the second day at Zulu Grille, which was a burgers and fries type of lunch spot right in the waterpark. Frank and I had lunch at B-Lux (the burger joint) before heading home on Sunday. The Italian place was good, but we would highly recommend a visit to B-Lux. The burgers were great and they had all kinds of tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshake desserts.

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Overall, our stay at Kalahari was a lot of fun! We know it’s a successful birthday trip when they keep saying they want to go back, do it again, or they ask if you remember when they did “xyz” with you. I would highly recommend Kalahari. I recommend watching for middle of the week or special day discounts. You can also reach out to some travel agents that might have deals for specific weekends. I recommend having at least one adult per child. And lastly, I recommend bringing some of your own food and snacks to help cut down on the costs of eating on site. (there really isn’t anything nearby).

 

The Mottram’s Do Costa Rica 2.0

Two years ago we did a trek across Costa Rica. 6 people, 2 cars, San Jose to Guanacaste with a touch in Arenal and Monteverde. This year, to celebrate a life, we returned to Costa Rica.  Sadly we lost one of our travel buddies this past summer. It still doesn’t feel real, like he’s just going to walk in the door one day and say “Gotcha”. Costa Rica was a place he loved. A place that he and his wife planned to retire. So we wanted to join his wife and celebrate his life in a place that he loved.

Why we all love Costa Rica:

It’s full of life! Costa Rica is vibrant. Between the monkeys, sloths, iguanas, poisonous frogs, and sharks, the wildlife is amazing. The people and the towns are vibrant, colorful and relaxed. The country has volcanos, jungle, mountains and beaches. It really is a pura vida (simple life). I also really love that 95% of the country power is made with renewable energy.

Where we stayed: Villa Sol, Playa Hermosa

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This year we flew to Liberia and stayed on the coast of Guanacaste in Playa Hermosa. We rented a villa in a gated resort and stayed in one place. Only 20 minutes from the airport, this place was a gem. Playa Hermosa is a quiet little spot and the villa we rented was on a resort complex. This gave us access to the beach, pool and other resort amenities. If we wanted, we could have added an all inclusive package to our villa. But the grocery stores are close and have everything you could want. If you want Lucky Charms, Doritos, and Oreos, you can find them. If you want charcoal and local meat to cook at home, you can find that too. We loved the quiet and secure feeling of Playa Hermosa while only being a few minutes away from Playas Del Coco with more shops, restaurants, and grocery stores. All the villas on Villa Sol are privately owned. Our villa wasn’t fancy, but it felt like home. The beds were a little hard and the wifi was a little slow, but everything else was perfect.

We spent our afternoons relaxing in the plunge pool, better known as the “punch bowl” and our mornings sipping coffee on the veranda. Of course we went diving and this year we did another ATV + zipline adventure with our friends. I will warn you, if you do an ATV tour on the coast during the dry season, it will be dusty.  This year we got to ride through the river a few times which made the ATV ride a whole lot more fun! It’s 90, it’s sunny, and even though you’re covered in dust, you still get burnt. Even though we stayed in one place this year, we always add a little “adventure” into our vacations!

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We stayed in Playa Hermosa, but we also spent time in Playas Del Coco.  One of our favorite finds was Zi’s. We had brick oven pizza and happy hour drinks. How can you argue with a $4 margarita! This is also where we went on our diving adventure. Sadly the diving was a little “green”, but we love to dive and we know you can’t control the ocean. We saw rays and puffers and starfish. There is still plenty to see in the ocean, even if the visibility was poor.

And even though we took ventured to Playas Del Coco, you wouldn’t have to leave Playa Hermosa at all. Between the resort amenities, the grocery store, and the restaurants nearby; we had everything we needed.

Costa Rica, you will always hold our heart. Until we see you again, In loving memory of our dear friend Bill Vining.

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Fall at the Cabin 2017

So here it is, months after we returned from Spain and we haven’t filled in any of the gaps, written more about our trip, or the various other places we have been since then.  The spring turned into summer which bled into fall. Hard to believe with the 80 degree temperatures, but it’s October! Three quarters of this year is already over. So while it’s fresh in my mind, and because I want to document it, I’m going to write about our recent trip to Pennsylvania.

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For as long as I can remember, my (Emily’s) family has been going to the cabin for weekends in the summer and fall. Our family loves to go there for my dad’s birthday in October! The crew: Emily’s parents, her sister and her husband, their two kids, their dog Quincey, us and our two dogs.  This year the boys (our dogs) stayed in NY while we threw a little 50cc four wheeler in the back of our Mazda for my niece to try out. A big shout out to Frank’s mom and her husband for letting us borrow it! She was too scared to ride it. I think a few more days with it, and she would have been racing around the yard, but a weekend wasn’t long enough for her to get comfortable and no one was going to push her to do it. She loves to ride and I definitely see one of these in her future. Pretty soon my dad won’t be able to see over her head riding together.

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But the weekend in the mountains isn’t just about riding four-wheelers, it’s about family time. For the last three years, we have taken family photos. I love to play with my camera and it’s fun to see the kids grow. And it’s usually pretty entertaining! This year, I forgot my tripod, so we had to use the back of the four-wheeler to prop up the camera, while I set the self timer and try to run to get into place before it snaps the picture. I have a wireless remote, but it’s unreliable. Might have to do some more research before next years photos. But then there may not be as much joy and laughter as they all watch me rush to make it into the photo without falling flat on my face. Like the photo below where I nearly slipped on the rocks as I rushed into place!

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Or them being crazy while I take a test shot to see how the lighting is:

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The best part about getting away for a weekend in the mountains, is the cabin has zero reception! All electronics get left in the car or turned on airplane mode and used as glorified cameras. We have a tv, but it never gets turned on. If we are inside, there is usually a rousing card game or board game going on. It’s possible that someone is napping on one of the 5 couches. But most of the time, we are outside. We ride, we walk, we play in the driveway/yard, we target shoot, or we just sit on the porch and enjoy the silence. It’s the best kind of weekend with some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Maine: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and Boothbay Harbor Whale & Puffin Cruise

They say you should write about what you know, and there are always adventures to be taken around home! We just happen to live in Vacationland! And I love Boothbay Harbor! Every year for the kids birthday we do an adventure. Madison turned 9 in April, but she loves the water, so we postponed her birthday adventure until we could take on the great Atlantic Ocean! One of her favorite things are Penguins. Well we don’t have those, but we do have Puffin’s. So on a whale and puffin adventure we went!

8:00 am 1st stop, donuts! When you’re off on an adventure, you should always start it with donuts!

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From Auburn it’s about 1.5 hours to Boothbay Harbor. Since it’s a long drive I opted to get a little exercise in on this trip as well. One of my all-time favorite places in Maine happens to also be in Boothbay Harbor!

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9:30 am – Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens! If you love flowers, nature, and Maine – this is the place! I have a membership and seeing the gardens through all the seasons is magical, but this time of year it is a riot of color and the kids area is whimsy and fun. We checked out the fairy houses, the bears den, the greenhouse, the story house, the coloring shed, and the little lake! Then we ventured down the trail to the waterfall and moss garden and then around the middle of the gardens to see the beautiful sculptures. If we had more time, we may have ventured further, but little legs can only go so far, and we needed to have lunch before we ventured on to our “real” trip of the day.

11:30 am – Lunch. We opted to have lunch at the gardens. Call me lazy, but it’s easy and the food is good. I had lobster! When you are this close to the coast, the lobster is good everywhere you go. But they also have “land” options for those who are a little less adventurous!

12:30 pm Stop 4 – batteries! Oops, Madison’s camera needed new batteries and thankfully they are the kind you can grab at the grocery store! We took the brief break to lather on the sunscreen which we promptly got all over the side of my car. So when I got home at 8:30 at night, my car got a bath! Thank goodness for long summer days and it still being light outside!

1:00 pm – Parking and finding our “ride”! We parked along the harbor, in hind sight I probably would have found somewhere farther away to park. $20 for the day and I think we may have taken the last spot in the lot. Sometimes convenience is worth the money though. And this time, it was good we did. We get all the way on the boat and Maddie realizes she left her camera in the car! LOL, kids…sometimes you just have to laugh. So we hurried back to the car, collected the camera and back on the boat we went.

1:30pm – departure! Don’t be late for the boat, they certainly don’t wait around! We sat on top in the open air and watched as the harbor slowly slid by. Islands and lighthouses, if you haven’t seen the Maine coast, a harbor cruise is just beautiful! But we were here for the puffins and whales! After a long cruise out into the Atlantic, we finally make it to the area where the whales have been having out! We saw a pair of humpback whales which showed off for us! (see youtube video below, but don’t judge me on my video…I’m still a beginner! )

4:00 pm – By 4 we were headed to Easter Egg Rock to check out the puffins. Take binoculars and a zoom lens because these little guys are tiny! Adorable, but tiny. Because you can’t get overly close to the island with a big boat, the puffins appear quite small. They fly in and out from the island and you still get to see them. But deciphering them from the other birds hanging out around the island can be more challenging. Next time, maybe I’ll have an even bigger lens to capture these beautiful creatures. Or I’ll see if I can’t get in with the scientists!

5:00pm – Headed back to the harbor. The ride back always seems so much shorter than the ride there. We were back in the harbor by 5:30 and headed back to the car! Since Madison doesn’t like seafood we headed out towards home in search of dinner. Although I am certain that there are turf options at all the local restaurants which serve some of the best seafood around!

6:30: Dinner at Taste of Maine. Boothbay Harbor is off of Route 1, so there are plenty of places to stop on route 1. We picked Taste of Maine because it’s easy to get to and it’s a fun family owned business that’s been there since the 70’s. I had seafood again and Madison had chicken tenders and fries. They have something for everyone including live music! After our bellies were full, we headed home completing our 12 hour day trip full of fun and adventure!

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Until the next adventure! ~ Emily

Big shout out to CAP’n Fish! What an amazing adventure!