Backroads & Byways of New England

I’m happy to report that I have the first copies of Backroads & Byways of New England in hand and it looks great. You can order it from Amazon now and your local bookstore will have it shortly or can order it. Unlike many guides, this one takes you into the less-traveled corners of New England, so be prepared to poke around in unexpected places and see things that many travelers miss. I’ll soon start blogging chapter by chapter about some of the book’s  highlights. Meanwhile, thanks to all who have ordered early copies. Enjoy, and have a wonderful tour of beautiful New England!

Life on a small island — May

After a long winter and dreary early spring, beautiful sunny days have come to this small island off the Maine coast. One of the highlights of an early morning walk or run is hearing the birds–cardinals, robins, jays, chickadees, and especially the pileated woodpeckers whose noisy breakfast foragings resound through the woods. They’ve been silent so long, it’s good to have them back. Human visitors to the island are returning as well. The rumbling of cars over the old swing bridge increases every day and as always, it’s fun to see the island come alive again after a quiet winter.

Spring officially arrived last month, but in reality it always seems to arrive around Easter when summer clothes appear in the stores, lawns show the first signs of greening up, and the first flowers poke through the ground. Here on the small Maine island where I live and write, we also mark the coming of spring by the arrival of the first summer residents and tourists. It’s still a bit early, but a  few people were here for Easter and as the warmer weather arrives, so will more and more families. It’s fun to see the island come alive after a long winter with only about 100 of us slogging it out through the winter months. Stay tuned for more about life on a Maine island during the peak season.

Far away this little island may be from England–in every sense of the word– but  there  is plenty of interest in the upcoming royal wedding. Although everyone out here is an early riser anyway (lots of fishermen and lobstermen start their days before first light), I expect to see even more lights flickering on in the early hours next Friday. Mine will be among them.  Why not? Despite  all the sad news in the world, weddings, like spring, signal the hope that comes with new beginnings.

As a lifelong foodie who often writes about food and serves as a judge at various food competitions, I’m often asked about memorable meals.  I’ve always been a fan of fresh ingredients–organic where possible–prepared without a lot of unnecessary fuss. I remember a lunch of freshly made yogurt on the Greek island of Mykonos, followed by a bowl of tiny wild strawberries picked from a field in back of the taverna and still warm from the sun. That meal has lingered in my mind as long as many multi-course dinners I’ve eaten in five-star restaurants here and abroad. I’m dreaming today of  Panache inthe Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City, one of my all-time favorites. Diners are served elegant fare in the rustic surroundings of a 19th-century marine warehouse, choosing among dishes such as oysters tartare with clementines,  venison with a sauce of whatever wild berries are in season, guinea hen with almonds and lovage-scented gravy, white chocolate pannacotta with pistachio cake, or a heavenly lavender creme brulee. It’s a trip to France without crossing the pond. If you have a favorite restaurant anywhere in the world, I hope you’ll share it with me.

April Showers

It’s April 12 and we still have patches of snow on the ground, but the heavy downpour taking place right now should finally eliminate it. The crocuses are up at last and the tulips are pushing their way through. The long New England winter has been hard on everyone, so it’s good to see some tangible signs of spring. Having just returned from a week in New York City, where daffodils were in full bloom and the stores were full of summer clothes, warm weather can’t come soon enough for me. After the cacophony of  the city, it always takes me a few days to readjust to life on my quiet Maine island. It’s like going from a double espresso to chamomile tea.

Spring Reading

It’s not quite time for beach reads yet, at least not here in chilly New England where there’s still snow on the ground. But if you want a great book to read now, or something to stash away for vacation, consider a book of essays called Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart available on amazon.com or from any bookstore.  The book contains 28 essays (full disclosure: one of them is mine) that will warm your heart, make you laugh, make you cringe, and most of all, make you think.  Although I spend my  days immersed in words, I was still amazed at the depth and breadth of my colleagues’ writing. I think you’ll like the book, and it makes a great Mother’s (or Father’s) Day gift, hostess present, or selection for your book club. Happy reading!

Writers on Writing

It’s bitterly cold here today, but the day is clear and the sky and the ocean are the same crystalline blue. Downy white clouds mimic the breaking whitecaps below and from my office window I see an eagle soaring and white gulls swooping overhead. Descriptions are often one of the hardest concepts for writers to master, and those of us who teach writing are always urging students to “show, don’t tell.” I’m reminded of a favorite quote from Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Summer Vacation in New England

Despite the ongoing frigid weather here in New England, it’s not too soon to make plans for summer vacation. My new book, Backroads & Byways of New England, is now available for pre-order from Amazon and will be in bookstores later this spring. You’ll find plenty of insider tips for traveling to the less-well-known corners of the six-state area. I’ll be writing about some of these places in future blogs, but meanwhile, continue to think spring–not just on the calendar, but outside as well!

Coming events…..

It may be gray and cloudy, with more snow forecast for this evening, but the birds know that spring really is here. From my office window I’ve watched an industrious crow flying back and forth most of the day with small twigs in her beak, obviously making a nest in the old oak tree. And when I walk in the early morning, the bird chatter gets louder every day. On our little island we have an amazing number of birds, including pileated woodpeckers, warblers, and lots of cardinals and jays to add color to the birdfeeders. Bird lovers may want to take in some upcoming events in Maine:

May 20-22 Fifth Annual Wings, Waves & Woods Festival in Deer Isle — Info: deerisle.com/calendar-of-events

May 27-30 Eighth Annual DownEast Spring Birding Festival in Cobscook Bay–Info: downeastbirdfest.org

June 2-5 Thirteenth Annual Acadia Birding Festival on Mt. Desert — Info: acadiabirdingfestival.com

Another spring; another snowstorm!

It’s the first full day of spring here in Maine and snowing hard as I write this. That’s not unusual here where the weather is known for being, shall we say, whimsical, especially when the seasons are changing. But there are signs of spring: robins are returning, crocuses and snowdrops are poking through the snow, and the first of the seasonal restaurants are opening.  Before it changed hands a couple of years ago, our little community store used to boast a sign reading, “If you’re not here in the winter, you don’t deserve to be here in the summer.” That’s harsh! But for those of us who soldier on through Maine’s tough winters, there is a certain pride in having made it through another one. And there’s no doubt that a difficult winter makes spring that much sweeter.