We’re just back from our annual summer pilgrimage to Mt Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park and some of the most breathtaking ocean-meets-woods scenery you’ll ever see. On our way there, we usually meander up coastal Route 1 from Freeport on north, and we have a few must-stops along the way. One of them is Maine State Prison store in Thomaston. Yes, that’s right, a prison store. At first I had expected to find a strange collection of outsider art made from license plates and chewing gum wrappers, or perhaps a male version of Orange is the New Black‘s lingerie shop. While there is a bit of quirk, the showroom is mostly filled with finely crafted wood items at great prices. This year we snagged a very hefty and solid cutting board, $30, and a molded bowl, $40. It makes you appreciate the time and craftsmanship that must go into smoothing and sanding down the wood. Though the pieces aren’t signed by their prisoner makers, you can feel the pride put into them. I highly recommend you adding this to as GPS via point if you’re driving along Maine’s coast. It is worth detour.
Maine State Prison Showroom, 358 Main St (Route 1), Thomaston, Maine. (207) 354-9237
Every year, as July turns into August, we make a pilgrimage up north to Maine, specifically Mt. Desert Island and the enchanting wilds of Acadia National Park. Seven days there does wonders to revitalize your mind and spirit. We unplug (thus, no Shelterrific posts for a week), disconnect and take lots of deep breathes to savor the freshest air imaginable. One of the most charming things about MDI is that there are no franchises or chains of any kind (there may be one Rite Aid, but that’s it). You don’t realize the effect constant strip mall signage and box stores collections have on your senses until you step away from them. It’s so delightful to having nothing but locally owned and operated businesses to choose from. Sure, you may have to pay a little more for that gallon of milk, or drive a little farther to get a pint of blueberries, but in the end, you’ll be happier because of it.
At the center of this extremely local-centric region is Acadia, which is truly one of this country’s treasures. (In fact, a USA Today poll recently declared it the most popular national park, which means the house rental demand will be even fiercer next summer!) When you’re in MDI, you weave in and out of the park land all day long. It is the only national park that has private land and small towns scattered throughout, which is a nod to history: It was donated by the Rockfellers about a hundred years ago, and some families still have estates within its boundaries. This year we rented a piece a property overlooking Sommes Sound. There were no car sounds, no lights from neighboring residences, nothing but quiet. Our days were spent exploring the park by foot, boat, or horse-drawn carriage. At night we cooked lobster in a big pot and then made s’mores by the fire pit for dessert.
Here are a few recipes and local wares that have become a part of our lives every summer. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to journey to MDI this year, you can always eat some cobbler and dream.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t at all regret moving from NYC proper into the burbs of New Jersey. But there are some things that have become increasingly difficult to do, if only because of geography and the frustrations of public transportation systems. One of them is that it is nearly impossible to keep up with some of the groovy, ever-changing neighborhoods of the outer boroughs. I used to love strolling around the emerging shops of Boreum Hill or Williamsburg. Now going there is a journey, and getting in the car and driving upstate to the country usually wins out as a weekend activity. Enter Strolby, a new site that lets you pursue the goodies of the hippest of parts of Bklyn without crossing one river. Strolby not only lets you buy wares that range from colorful dresses to handcrafted ceramics, it also introduces you to the shop owners and creators behind the lovely goods. Its Explore Brooklyn blog keeps you up on the news from the streets and will have you have you feeling like a local in no time. Coming soon, Strolby Hudson, a way to visit our favorite upstate town that is a true stoller’s paradise!
This weekend, tens of thousands of people will be descending on the snowy little ski town of Park City Utah, to schmooze, deal, gawk and watch hours of movies in dark theaters at the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve been lucky enough to attend more than once, and whenever I come home I want to add a little mountain cabin style to home — perhaps a Navajo rug or maybe something sheepskin. This year I’m observing from afar, but I have my eye on these antler roasters from Rustic Roasters. Made by Steven Wymer out of either reclaimed branches or naturally shed antlers, they are selected, then lovingly shaped and stained, cured and crafted. Handles are colored and coated with non-synthetic finishes and the toasting rods are food-grade stainless steel. They’ll bring your s’mores to the next level — even if they’re being made on the back of your deck in a suburban firepit. $129 for a set of four. See more at rusticroasters.com.
When one thinks of Maui, usually visions of poetic sunsets, leaping whales and surfers with washboard abs come to mind. None of those are wrong, but what you might not realize is that there is a burgeoning farm-to-table movement happening on the paradise isle, which makes sense since getting stuff there is not exactly easy. We snuck in a pre-holiday season vacation thanks to the wonders of airmiles, and made a stop by the Surfing Goat Dairy. Found on the hills of Halekala, otherwise known as Upcountry, it’s down the road from a vodka distillery and up the road from a lavender farm. Founded about 12 years ago by two German expats, (he a software exec, she a school teacher) they decided to buy a small goat farm and turn it into an organic dairy is that is a gourmand’s dream. One hundred percent sustainable, it now raises Saanen, Alpine and La Mancha goats, and from their milk they make the most delicious cheeses. If you’ve never had the opportunity to pet a kid goat, you are missing out. They are friendly, soft and eager to have the back of their ears rubbed. They’ll also try to eat anything they can get their tongues on, so you do have to be careful. We signed up for a $15 tour and was shown around dairy and farm. Our favorite part was getting a turn to milk the goat moms for ourselves. Though they have machine pumps — which they swear are gentler and kinder than a human touch — we were each allowed to give a “squeeze” and aim for the bucket. The goats seemed grateful.
If you are in Maui, be sure to visit Surfing Goat Dairy. The best time to show up is around 2pm so you’ll be there for the afternoon milking. If you’re really interested in learning more about sustainable, organic goat farming, ask about their volunteer program. A summer in Maui getting close to some goats while perfecting your cheese making skills? Let the fantasies begin. And for those wishing to sample the goods without the jet lag, consider a gift basket for the holiday season.
For more information on the Surfing Goat Dairy, visit their site.