Friday, August 27, 2010

Leaf Peepers Welcome!

The chill is in the air (at least for mornings anyway) and the leaves are already beginning to shift in tone - some reds and yellows are appearing.

Upcoming for Labor Day Weekend is the Windjammer Festival in Camden and not long thereafter will be the Harbor Arts Festival and the Sept weekend designed to drive through the region visiting all of the artisans and galleries. And, don't miss Lincolnville's Fall Festival and Vinfest at the winery (Cellardoor). All during our Leaf Peeping season.

Yankee Magazine just rated our area (Camden) as #6 in the top 25 places to view the fall folliage. Like the image above from Camden Hills State Park (just 2 miles from Bay Leaf Cottages!!), the season promises to be wonderful.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the restaurants of the region and exploring various "off the beaten path" options. And, we're getting ready for another wonderful round of cooking classes with Renate Tower - September 8th - Lunch 'n Learn is Cooking for Your Pooch and September 15th - Oktoberfest Dinner. Contact us at (207) 706-7929 for a space in these classes.

What I've found recently (food-wise) in Mid-coast Maine.... Conti's 1894 is THE place for amazing Italian seafood. It is totally NOT fancy but it is amazing. Chef John Conti (a self-taught chef and madman) doesn't advertise, has no phone, and won't take reservations at his hole in the wall restaurant in Rockland (south Maine Street - but you didn't hear it from me!). The parking lot adjacent to the white house covered with lobster traps has one small sign which reads: "no fry, phone or freezer" "no cards, no ketchup, no micro " "new menu everyday". It's the latter that is most important - FRESH seafood and creative items fill a 4x6' blackboard as you enter the place - strewn with baskets of plum tomatos, piles of fresh Italian bistro-style bread. The "house wine" was quite good, bowls of salad with freshly made dressings join the table. Speaking of tables - don't expect things to match here - it's an electic hodge-podge of decor but that's not why you are there. Select from the menu all sorts of seafood options with Aglio (oil and garlic) or Marinara sauces over linguini or other pasta of the day. I ordered the Sea Scallops (a small portion) and could not finish it all - there was about a pound of scallops on my plate! Perfecctly sauteed and delicious! My daughter was amazed by her crab and shrimp aglio on linguini entree as well. She too could not finish it all. Containers for take home exist and next time we're going to order the large portions so we'll have plenty to bring home and enjoy a second day! Don't miss this place - it's a lost art, a dying breed, etc. No chain restaurant or fried seafood shack is going to touch the quality of this food experience. And, you'll have a lot to talk about afterwards!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Lobster Police Visit

Yesterday when I noticed a someone drive into our property in a pick-up truck and walk over to the door (in uniform, wearing a badge) I thought to myself, boy I hope this is our local police chief because I'd like to talk about the speeding people do in the morning past our business. When he opened the door I could see he was the Marine Police (AKA Lobster Police). With citation book in hand, he asked if we were serving lobster dinners and I said, "yes" (he could see the sign outside advertising Lobster Dinners for $10 on Saturday night). He asked if I had a license and I about laughed but refrained. I said, "you're kidding right? " To which he responded, "that's what most people say." I said that I had recently called to the township office to ask if we needed any further permits or licenses than our lodging and restaurant license and our retail license, our registration as a business with the State of Maine and they said not to their knowledge. Guess that didn't include lobsters (and other shellfish). We just got a "warning" and forms to send into the State of Maine (to pay $87 for our permit to sell lobster dinners). We have to purchase from a licensed dealer and not a harvester unless we want to buy a different and more expensive permit. Given we're only charging $10 for dinner including lobster, potatoe, salad, and beverage, it's going to be a while before we cover the cost of the license. So, we may have to raise the dinner to $12.00 - sorry folks!

Can you imagine that the Marine Police carry guns? Going to shoot the lobster in the tank? or me!?!?!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things to do

Here's my home away from home! Emily and I have been living in one of our motel rooms. I've been there for 2 months and have been enjoying our mid-coast Maine adventure. This room has a full-sized bed, a twin bed, and a sleeper sofa. And, there's a TV and microwave plus a coffee pot.

Did I mention that Ginger, our family pet, has been staying with us too? She loves sitting by the window and watching the ducks in the pond. Lucky for the ducks she's not outside chasing them. We've been naming the ducks (all females so far) and we're up to 11 ducks. So far we have Lucy and Ethel, Betty and Wilma, Hot Lips Hullihan - well you get the idea. The male ducks are at another nearby pond and the ducklings are down the road. We've decided that since this is Maine, these must be Shaker Ducks since they have self-segregated by gender.

It's raining today and people often feel like they should not travel when it's raining or avoid Maine if the weather forecast is for rain. Here are a few recommendations for things to do when it rains:
1. Owl's Head Transportation Museum
2. Farnsworth Museum in Rockland
3. Antiquing in Searsport
4. There's nothing like a trip to Reny's - it's the quintessential Maine 5 & 10.
5. Roadtrip to LL Bean (open 24/7)
6. Bowling - try Candlepin bowling - a New England tradition! Local lanes: Oakland Park in Rockport.
7. Take in a movie at Flagship in Thomaston, Strand in Rockland, or Colonial in Belfast.
8. Learn how to make a Windsor Chair in Lincolnville.
9. Wine taste with Cellar Door Winery in Lincolnville (tasting shop on Rt. 1 in Camden)
10. Tour Camden's many art galleries.
11. Visit local artisans at their studios and homes.
12. Used books abound with booksellers from Camden to Searsport.
13. Theater - Camden Civic Theater, Northport Music Theater, and Belfast Maskers are sure to please.
14. Concerts abound in the region - check out the Bay Chamber Concert series or local bands at restaurants and clubs.
15. Purchase a day-pass to the YMCA and get fit!
16. Visit the Project Puffin Welcome Center in Rockland and see their movie about puffin preservation.
17. Visit the Hollywood Casino in Bangor
18. Visit the Children's Discovery Museum in Bangor
19. Make a trip to the Bangor Mall.
20. Explore the Penobscot Marine Museum.
21. The Maine State Museum should grab you in Augusta.
22. The Schoolhouse Museum in Lincolnville is a great attraction.
23. Belted Galloway cows will greet you at Aldemere Farms as you drive Chestnut Street out from Camden.
24. Stop by and taste Maine cheese at the State of Maine Cheese Company on Rt. 1 in Rockport.
25. Visit the Ross Center at Merry Spring Gardens.
26. Learn about woven traditions at the Swan Island Blanket Company.
27. Tour Fort Know in Bucksport and go atop th Narrows Bridge Observation Tower.
28. Stop by the Sweetgrass Winery and Distillery for some local made spirits.
29. Stop by Young's Lobster pound to witness hundreds of lobsters in large tanks.
30. Ride on the Islesboro Ferry back and forth!
31. Explore the shops of Camden and Belfast
32. Take a hands-on arts/crafts class at Bay Leaf Cottages & Bistro
33. Take a How To Class at Home Depot in Rockport.
34. Take a How To Class at Lowes in Thomaston.
35. Work with an artisan in their studio - create!

Have fun no matter what the weather! Eat Lobster! Visit us!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Blueberry Pancake Weekend at Bay Leaf Cottages's Bistro! - see our weekly menu and weekend specials!

This week's cooking class (14th) is Seafood Appetizers. When you're in Maine there's nothing like cooking with fresh seafood.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bay Leaf Cottages & Bistro

All the charm of a B&B without the cost!

The last two months in Maine have flown by! We're enjoying this vacation property so much. Since our purchase and closing (early May), we've accomplished a lot. For example:

  1. 1. Opened the property once again (it had been closed for 1.5 years and was in foreclosure) - plumbing, heating, water tests, electrical work --- basically EVERYTHING was checked out and turned ON.
  2. 2. Removal of waste, dead trees, bushes, and all sorts of "stuff" - old this and thats - a huge yard full (behind the fence kind of thing) and at least a garage and building full of "stuff".
  3. We had 3 garage sales and saw lots of old bedding go to those in need. Not to mention "decor items" made by prisoners from Warren's Prison Shop in Thomaston (circa 1982).
  4. Painted and revived four important rooms open to the public - our welcome Office with Gift Shop (stop by and see what neat items we have available including Put a Lobster in Your Kayak T-shirts and Lincolnville Sweatshirts), our Bay Leaf Bistro (now serving Breakfast daily, lunch daily, and Lobster Dinners for $10 on Saturday night with special dinners on Wednesday night), our Library with resource materials on what to see and do in Maine, and our Living Room - open to our guests. Remember, we're trying to create "all the charm of a B&B without the cost". See our website for our weekly breakfast and lunch menus.
  5. Hosted a contest for interior design majors at Illinois State University - winners were brought to Maine in May to spend 4 days redecorating 11 cottages. See the interior photos on our website "view the cottages". We also have our our Facebook page before and after photos. There's a link to an article about the Cottages by Design that appeared in the Bangor Daily. Each and every cottage and motel room has new bedding and new decor! All cottages are on our herbal theme and motel rooms are Maine-coast themes.
  6. Held a ribbon cutting ceremony with three Chambers of Commerce - Belfast, Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville, and Penobscot Bay (Rockland). Open house was fun!
  7. Painted the interior of the main house - kitchen and living room, bedrooms - someone has to watch the place!
  8. Cleaned out the garage and set up the workshop. One can now play ping pong inside! Yeah!
  9. Painted the railings of the decks, fences, bridges and set up a nice Pergula for picnicing and grilling.
  10. Added a dog run for our 4-legged friends.
  11. Added a play ground with Step 2 Swingset and Crabbie sandbox
  12. Created a kids play cottage with games, arts and crafts, and MORE!
  13. Scheduled and offered seminars - see our summer class schedule for kids and adults - you don't need to stay on-site to participate in the many fun things we're doing here!
  14. Started planting gardens and replacing grass as needed.
  15. Gained a flock of ducks and added our own 2 jumbo rubber duckies to the pond and stream (which were dug out earlier in the summer).

Well - we've done a lot and still have more to do!

Along the way we've met many of our neighbors (even had a picnic with many of them last week) and hope to meet more!

We hope to meet you too! Come visit!

Jane in Maine

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Maine Lobsters and Lodging?

Hello readers -
Welcome to the story of Maine Lobsters and Lodging! About 65 years ago my parents were married and the first place they lived as a couple was Bath, Maine. I could have been born there but for some reason my life in Maine would start a bit later. My dad was stationed at Bruswick Naval Air Station and each day hitched a ride to the base from Bath. My mom remembers helping to care for the children in the home where they rented a modest room. My grandparents as I recall, made annual trips from Pennsylvania to Maine and returned to visit us in New Jersey with maple sugar candy, pine needle-stuffed pillows to freshen our drawers of clothes, and wonderful photos.

As I grew up I always wanted to see Maine but was destined to spend my summers on the Jersey Shore - an adequate substitution for a young child I suppose. When I was out of college and off teaching high school in NJ I took up skiing and found many a weekend trek to Maine to be much fun. Imagine driving from central NJ to Sugarloaf on a Friday night, skiing Saturday and half of Sunday and then riding back to NJ in time to teach classes on Monday morning. I believe I was more interested in winters in Maine than whether or not my Monday morning classes would be engaging for my students.

When my master's degree was almost completed I saw that a position was open in Maine at USM-Gorham. I applied and was invited for an interview. While my classmates thought I was crazy to head so far north to teach, I was excited at the opportunity to live and work in Maine. My interview was a typical Maine experience. I flew into Boston and it was too foggy for flights into Portland so passengers were bussed to Maine. I couldn't see anything throughout the ride and awoke the next morning to an equally dense fog. While I met my future colleagues and had a great campus visit, I just could not see anything of Maine. In the end, it just didn't matter - I wanted to be there and the opportunity was wonderful.

Two years in Portland-Gorham and lots of ski time at Sunday River kept me happy in my early career. Lobsters and treks along the coast, midnight runs to LLBean, and mountain adventures made for a wonderful experience. When I left for graduate school in the midwest I knew I would want to return. Well, careers have a way of twisting and turning and fast forward many years since 1980.... world travel, living and working in China, accomplishing much in my professional career, adopting a wonderful daughter from China, writing and editing books, and providing support for orphans.... it's retirement time! And with that, I can help my daughter plan for college and I can plan for my return to Maine.

Along the way I thought an ideal place to be would be a small town in Maine along the coast - a place where I could get to know people and enjoy time there. I started thinking about a place to live and that turned into a quest for a lodging property to purchase. While the first attempt to secure a purchase of a desired property didn't work out due to the local banks and economy, I was able to gather some exceptional friends to join in the process and purchase what we will call Bay Leaf Cottages and Bistro - 2372 Atlantic Hwy, Lincolnville ME.

This blog is about us - the trials and tribulations of starting up and reviving a resort property in Mid-coast Maine. What happened with the bank anyway? How did property #1 fall through at the last moment? Why we're happy with property #2 anyway. Who are our investors and why are people from China coming to Maine for their vacations? What challenges have we faced in rennovating a house that's 150 years old? What are we serving at our Bistro? Where are we eating in the region and better yet - what is there good to see and do and why? Who are these Midcoast Mainers and what have I learned from them?

These questions and a whole lot more will soon be a part of this blog. Please join us on our journey! Come join us at Bay Leaf Cottages and Bistro!! We have 12 cottages and 9 motel rooms all being rennovated starting next week - we've even brought a Design Challenge to Maine! 14 winners of an interior decorating constest have redesigned our cottages and motel rooms to make them more suitable for family travelers, couples/partners, and even your loving dog! See for more info! Stay 2 nights and get 2 free lobsters! We're cooking up a storm on Wednesday and Saturday nights too!

Jane in Maine