Monday, September 30, 2013

The Underground Library

by FabricGreetings

For years I have heard about the underground library in Camden, Maine. This year I was able to go and visit that library and just loved everything about it.

The residents of Camden voted in 1896 to form a free public library. It took many years to raise the funds for this construction. The land was donated by Mary Louise Curtis Bok. The land sits at the end of what is now a very busy town center on a plot of land that over looks a beautiful harbor. The library is a Colonial Revival building. The corner stone of the building was laid in August of 1927 and the doors to the library opened ten months later on June 11, 1928. You can see the original building in the above picture.

The grounds of the library were designed as an ampitheater and constructed between 1928 and 1931. Fletcher Steele was the architect and this is considered to be one of his best works. The two acre park across the street is known as Harbor Park and was designed by the Olmsted Brothers between 1928 and 1935. It is very informal compared to the structured design of the ampitheater across the street. The same donor gave the land for Harbor Park.

Now it is the late 90’s and the library needs to expand. But where to do it. Do you destroy the ampitheater, move to another spot,or seek other options? Other options was the answer. So the library went underground. Under the South lawn was the option. In 1996 the expansion of the library was completed. A whole new wing – The Centennial Wing – provided more room for larger collections and computer based technology.

People enter the library through a large set of glass doors. (as seen in the first picture) You come into a rotunda shaped area that features the check out desk and information area. The computer area is light and bright. There are many seating areas throughout the room. The original library which is easily accessed by an elevator or a flight of stairs is still being used. The first floor of the building is used by the Historical Society. The second floor of the original building is the library reading room.

When we were there , the meeting room was being used as a gallery to showcase some of the quilted wall hangings of Linda Shepard. You can see her lunar moth hanging below:

For more information:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Carrot Cake Recipe

by RobinsFlight

I have a confession to make: I love carrot cake.  I've even been known to eat it for breakfast.  Actually, what I think I really love is the cream cheese frosting it generally comes with.  But cream cheese frosting tastes best on carrot cake...though a good red velvet cake might come in a close second.  And apparently I've stumbled onto the best carrot cake recipe around, or so I'm told.  I've even converted carrot cake haters into aficionados with one bite.  Now this cake is the favorite in our house- even beating out the ever popular marble cake with chocolate frosting.  I'm not sure where the recipe came from.  I think it started out from one of those popular cookbooks like Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens, and then I tweaked it a bit here and there.  Feel free to do some tweaking of your own, and let me know if you find an improvement!

Carrot Cake

1 c. white (granulated) sugar
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 lb. bag carrots, peeled and finely shredded
1 c. finely chopped nuts

Note: I use my food processor to quickly chop the nuts, then switch to the shredder and shred the carrot in the same bowl.  It saves a lot of time, compared to hand grating, and you don't get orange hands either!

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease 9"x13"x2" pan, grease and flour two 8" round cake tins, or grease or line 18 muffin tins. 
In a large bowl, mix sugars, oil, and eggs.  Beat by hand one minute. 
Stir in other ingredients, except carrots and nuts, until moistened, beat one minute by hand.  (No need for that upper arm workout after this step!) 
Stir in carrots and nuts until well mixed. 
Bake 40-44 min. (9x13 pan), 45-50 min. (rounds) or 25-30 min. (cupcakes) until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 10 minutes before removing from round pans, if necessary.  Allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting (see below).  Enjoy!!

Cream cheese frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
4 c. powdered (confectioners) sugar

With an electric mixer, cream butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until spreadable.  If frosting is too soft, chill before frosting or add powdered sugar until desired stiffness.  Store in refrigerator.

Monday, September 16, 2013


     It has been touted as the happiest place on Earth, a site of adventure, fantasy, and a land of tomorrow.  In this place, one need not be bound by the constraints of age, or the fear of appearing foolish.  Wearing silly hats is the norm, and little girls can be transformed into princesses.  This happy place is Disneyland.

     Of course there is more than one Disneyland, but the one to which I am referring is the first, the original Park in Anaheim, California that opened in 1955.  This is the Disneyland I have visited at least once a year since I was a small child.  My latest visit was last Friday, and everything was decorated for Halloween.
    I still feel a rush of excitement when entering the Park.  The first area one encounters is Main Street, USA.  Walking down Main Street is like passing through a Midwestern town of the early 20th century.  There is a city hall, firehouse, train station, penny arcade, and my husband's favorite, an ice cream parlor.

     We climbed aboard the horse-drawn streetcar, which took us to Sleeping Beauty castle.  The castle provides entrance to Fantasyland by way of a drawbridge across a moat.  I've been told it is a working drawbridge, though it hasn't been raised for more than twenty years.
     Saving our visit to Fantasyland for later, we turned left and made our way to Frontierland.  Frontierland recreates the setting of pioneer days along the American frontier.  One of my favorite rides there is the Mark Twain riverboat.  From the decks of the riverboat, you can see New Orleans Square, home of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, as well as the Haunted Mansion.
     The magic of Disneyland does not reside merely in the rides and attractions, though there are plenty of those.  I think the aspect that draws people to Disneyland is that while there, one feels as though they have indeed entered another land.

     Riding the bus back to the parking lot, I overheard a child say to his mother, "I don't want to leave Disneyland.  I want to live there forever."  Ah, if we only could!


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Perfect Tea Pot (for Me)

by FabricGreetings

Many people can't seem to function in the morning without their cup of coffee. It is not a taste that I ever acquired and don't have the desire to start now. I do love the smell of freshly brewed coffee, but that is about the size of it. Anything with coffee flavor or mocha is just not on my radar.

Now tea is a different matter entirely. A cup of freshly brewed tea is a welcome treat at most any time of the day. I am not talking about a tea bag put in a mug and “nuked” in the microwave. I mean a pot of boiling water poured over a tea bag or a tea ball of leaves in a tea pot and allowed to steep for 5 minutes.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog piece. I have several tea pots. One was my grandmother's and is part of a tea service. It is not particularly pretty to me, but it has been in my family for a long time. This little green pot has a pretty puny handle.

The tea pot that matches our china service is lovely. I like anything that is pink or has pink to it.....well not bubble gum! I really like the flared bottom to this pot. But take a look at the handle.

When my Mother died, I brought her tea pot home with me. It is a very functional pot. It is not made of china, but is rather a pottery type of tea pot with a country style. I like the little pointed top with the knob. Notice the handle.

They are all lovely tea pots and have brewed many cups of tea over the years. But the handles are really not that practical for someone who has hand problems like I do. I pot of tea is heavy. It is hard to lift the tea pot because it is off balance. You almost have to put your other hand under the spout to help raise it.

But along comes this plain white tea pot I found in Florida several years ago. It has no decorations, looks a little utilitarian and almost small. But this little pot has a bit of a surprise to it. Look at the handle. It is inset into the pot. I can easily lift this pot even when it is full to the top. It is perfectly balanced – no need to support the spout when I am pouring tea. And its fat little belly holds an astonishing amount of tea.

Isn't it wonderful when you find something that just works for you! I wish I had bought two of them when I saw this one. There is nothing like a good cup of tea to warm the soul. And a cup of tea made in a happy pot is even better.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finger Lakes fun

by RobinsFlight

Scheduling trips is an activity that I always enjoy.  I often have two or three in my mind at a time- not all definitely planned, but ideas of places we could go or things I'd like to see.  Before we had children, my husband and I were privileged to take quite a few nice trips, including an anniversary trip to Hawaii and a two week marathon trip along the west coast, stretching from San Francisco, CA,
Napali cliffs on Kauai
to Vancouver, BC.  However, once kids were in the picture, our family vacations tended toward the "get there and sit there" variety, picking one location and staying there for an entire week.  This is definitely a nice way to relax, and limits packing and unpacking the mountains of things
Crater Lake
kids must have when you're away from home. If you're interested, you can see my account of one of these family trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes in last year's post.

But I found myself wishing we could go more places, see more, with the kids.  This was illustrated one day when my son was riding the back seat of the car while we were on the expressway that runs near our house.  This "highway" is actually below street level, and is built with little dips and rises so that any water on the road will drain toward the storm sewers.  But on our little trip that morning my son noticed that the road was "hilly."  Admittedly, our little corner of southeastern Michigan is rather flat- some would say extremely flat- but still, the dips in the road should not constitute "hills."  Clearly it was time for my kids to experience real hills.

And so for our vacation this year we decided to take the Lake Erie circle tour, with a detour into the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.  The kids were excited that we'd get to see Niagara Falls, but other than that they really had no idea what we were going to see.
View of the American Falls (left) and Horseshoe Falls (right)
Then again, neither did I, as I'd never been to that area of New York before either.
Fireworks over the American Falls
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls was fun for all.  We avoided the touristy areas that teem with souvenir shops and focused strictly on the falls itself.  The kids loved the Maid of the Mist, the Journey behind the Falls, and watching the fireworks over the falls from our fallsview hotel room.

American Falls overlook

Once on the American side, we found my daughter's highlight of the entire trip, the Cave of the Winds.  It was quite an experience, being virtually under the American Falls and so close.  Unfortunately, my son was rather intimidated by the experience, so I rushed through with him.  But we did stick around
long enough to see Daddy and Sister on the so-called hurricane deck, standing just feet in front of the raging falls.  It was not the only time I wished for a waterproof camera.

Stonework stairs at Letchworth State Park

After those thrills, I was hoping the other destinations I had planned wouldn't seem anticlimactic.  And while I think the excitement of Niagara Falls was the most impressive to the kids, they definitely enjoyed the other sights we saw.

Our next stop was Letchworth State Park, about an hour and a half southeast of Niagara Falls.  It is home to three fairly large waterfalls.  Entering at the north entrance, we enjoyed a leisurely drive along the Genesee River, through the park to the falls at the southern end of the park.  The kids were a bit antsy until we found the falls, but they appreciated them once we got there.
Lower Falls
Middle Falls

Upper Falls

Blowing her own glass ornament

Flameworking demonstration

The next day, we headed farther south and east to Corning, NY, home of the Corning Glass Museum.  While I was unsure just how welcome two occasionally rambunctious kids would be in a glass museum, it was actually very kid friendly.  In fact, admission for kids and even teens is free!  They have demonstrations of glass blowing, flameworking, and a glass breaking demo that we had to see twice!  And we splurged and made our own glass creations in their glass studio to take home as souvenirs.

Our final day in the Finger Lakes region we spent at Watkins Glen State Park.  This gorge, located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, is truly magnificent.  The first mile of the 1.5 mile gorge path ascends 400 feet through a gorge created by Glen Creek, and passes (or in some cases passes under) 19 separate waterfalls.

I was a bit concerned about the kids being able to handle the hike, but to my surprise they were full of energy, and the call of more and more waterfalls farther on kept them moving.  Of course, the promise of swimming at the pool which is also located at the state park may have also helped them keep moving, especially on the return trip back down.  We also found an interesting park with unique play equipment near the pool facility. 

An evening trip into the city of Watkins Glen led us to a nice dinner overlooking the lake.  If we had had another day, we might have taken one of the boat tours that were advertised at the pier.

All in all, I think our first traveling vacation as a family was a definite success.  Granted, it wasn't one of those relax and forget it all kind of vacations.  But we'll make up for that next summer.  I think the Sleeping Bear Dunes are calling again.