Our Covid Policies and Practices


Hi 2022 Towne Motel guests! As we enter our third year of living with the Corona virus, we’re happy to note that most travel and everyday life restrictions have been lifted in Maine and most other states, at least for now.  International travelers still need to follow federal guidelines ( which currently include a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure to the US), but no additional rules for Maine or most other states.  Our 2022 season is looking as busy as always and we’re excited that people are eager to travel and come visit Maine! Compared to last year, we’re expecting to welcome back more adventurers from abroad, especially our Canadian neighbors. We have missed our many Canadian repeat guests, and are happy to realize they haven’t forgotten about us!

Like last year, things won‘t  be as quiet here as in 2020, but you will still find lots of ways to escape crowds and enjoy the outdoors that Maine is so famous for. Midcoast Maine has everything from mountains to lakes, beaches, islands, hiking and biking trails, sail boats and harbors, vineyards and farmers markets — but also plenty of cultural activities, which are all back this year, including Lobsterfest! Whether you’re ready to leave the pandemic as far behind as possible, or whether you still want to be cautious and stay away from crowds, Midcoast Maine has something for everyone.

Here at Towne Motel, of course, we want you to stay healthy and safe in and around our property, and we continue to follow or exceed the state‘s guidelines. Immaculately clean rooms have always been a top priority at Towne Motel, but since the start of the pandemic, we have been working hard to make some changes required or recommended by the state, industry standards, and hospitality yaYorganizations, and suitable for our property, guests, and employees.

Here are some of the policies we‘re still following this summer:

Checking in: Our check in process can still be contact free if you’d like it to be. If you prefer not to come into the office, you can let us know by phone or email in response to your reminder email, and we will let you know how and where to get your key and welcome note. Now that all restrictions have been lifted, and the two of us have been fully vaccinated and boosted,  we will not enforce social distancing rules in our office, but are still encouraging people to check in one party at a time, just to make everyone comfortable and be on the safe side. Commonly used items and surfaces are sanitized frequently, and a sign outside the office requests that guests who have not been fully vaccinated continue to wear masks, as in many other businesses in town. If you can’t find your mask(s), we have some for you outside the door, and there are hand sanitizers inside the office.

Common Indoor Areas ( e.g. dining rooms)  and Breakfast: starting Memorial Day weekend or even a bit earlier, we will open our breakfast rooms again, and everyone is welcome to have breakfast there or grab a few things to take to your room or  to an outdoor area (trays are available). The breakfast rooms will look much like last year, with separate tables for food and drink. Windows will usually be open for better ventilation. You do not have to wear a mask if you’ve been fully vaccinated, but of course you’re still welcome to do so as you help yourself to food and beverages. If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, please wear a mask in the dining rooms, except when / if you sit down to eat and drink.

Almost all guest rooms open up to the outdoors; there are only two rooms which share an interior corridor, and that corridor has a window and a door which is open during the daytime. If more than one of these rooms is occupied, please wear a mask as you walk through the corridor if you have not been fully vaccinated. 

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Blackberry Bread, Good and Simple


By Katja

If you have to bake something, but would rather get lost on facebook, watch Netflix, or take a nap, this simple Blackberry bread might be just the thing. Ok, so most people don’t have to bake. If they do, they’re probably pastry chefs or professional bakers who would laugh at the idea of making a simple blackberry bread. But maybe you promised to bring something to a brunch, or have a bunch of hungry teenagers and two loaves of baked goods should always be around. Or maybe you need to do something with a bucket of blackberries you went through the trouble of picking. Whatever the reason, this bread will get you out of the kitchen in no time, and back on the couch where you belong.image

I loved baking when I was a teenager growing up in Germany. I would get cookbooks from the library, peruse them in the evenings when the family hung out watching TV, and hand copy recipes I liked into notebooks. My mom still has some of these notebooks. She doesn’t seem to have the heart to throw them out, even though she wasn’t enthused about the excessive hours I spent on unnecessary kitchen and food activities like baking and cookbooks.

At first she was glad that my sister and I showed an interest in making things for family “kaffeeklatsch” get-togethers. But it soon became apparent that we seemed to be wasting any emerging pastry chef talent on crazy creations guests only tasted out of politeness. When everyone would’ve just preferred a regular German apple or cheesecake (the latter made with “quark,” not cream cheese), we would experiment with coca cola cake from a Betty Crocker cookbook, Milky Way bars, or chocolate cheesecake made the American way. (Clearly, we didn’t do a good job selling American cuisine to the older German generation). More often than not, we carted these concoctions off to our own parties and get-togethers. Unlike unappreciative family with limited local tastes, our friends’ teenage appetites were willing to devour whatever we set in front of them.

My baking obsession came to an eventual halt, to be revived only sporadically  for Christmas, potlucks, or for students at semester’s end (usually for the day they had to fill out evaluation forms:)). Otherwise, there just wasn’t enough of a reason to bake, and not enough people to bake for. Who would eat all that stuff? Well, now that we have an inn, and therefore guests who eat stuff, I’m back in the baking habit.  And I still like to try new recipes, only I have to be a bit more careful than I was in high school. I don’t think coca cola cake would go over well during a Towne Motel breakfast – although you’d be surprised at the kinds of things people eat on vacation that they never would otherwise. (Stay tuned for a post on peanut butter chocolate chip and similar heavy duty pound cakes).

Unlike (I assume) most other innkeepers, I rarely decide until the day before or the day itself what I want to make – it all depends on so many factors. I just thought I’d mention that in case the next paragraphs make you wonder how I could be so unorganized about a daily task. Maybe I just go along with the unpredictable nature of inn-keeping, or maybe I’m indecisive; whatever it is, it just doesn’t seem fun to have a baking schedule laid out for the whole week. Especially because a schedule can’t predict the most exhausting days of the week – the days when you’d rather put up your feet than stand on them to bake.

In July and August, we have lots of such crazy busy days – days when we’re simply unable to try a new recipe or adapt an old one in newly creative ways. Anything that involves yeast – out of the question. A recipe that calls for four cups of apples to peel and dice? No dice. Not even recipes with simple fillings or toppings or streusel look tempting on such days. (Well, except for Apricot bars, but that’s just a layer of jam). Instead, just like any other innkeeper we know, we seek refuge in our tried and true, foolproof, one-bowl recipes, some of which are gifts from Jane, previous Towne Motel breakfast chef ( who clearly knew what she was doing when it came to crazy summer days).

Siobhan is usually the first to recognize a day’s limitations, maybe because her day starts and ends earlier than mine. Or maybe because she’s more realistic when it comes to time: while I might start panicking at 11 am that there won’t be enough hours in the day, or else see a day still leisurely stretching out ahead of me at 2 pm, Siobhan usually has a firm handle on the situation no later than early afternoon.

“Well, this will have to be an Apricot Bars day,” she might declare shortly after lunch, having just slashed her previous, more elaborate plan, the kind that might have involved shopping, refrigeration, layers and a glaze. At that time of day I am either in denial (do I have to bake today?? Well, I’ll think about that later), or still full of ambition and optimism: after my ocean swim, I tell myself, I will have a load of energy and can pretty much bake anything I put my mind to.

Believe it or not, that actually happens sometimes. But if it doesn’t (either the swim, or the energy), I gradually switch from a tentative plan A (the fun new recipe with excellent reviews) to a safer plan B (a good, semi complex recipe I haven’t made in a while), before finally capitulating to plan C = realism: “I better make something I know is easy, good, and foolproof,” I tell myself, “something I’ve made many times before. Such as…..hmmm…”

No, it can’t always be granola. For one thing, that seems like cheating, considering how fast and easy it is to make. But also, sometimes granola doesn’t work well with what Siobhan is making, or what we’ve made the day before (we try not to serve two selections with nuts on the same day, for example, or with oatmeal).

I ask Siobhan for advice.

“Why not make blackberry bread,” she suggests, sighing at my lack of memory and resourcefulness. “It’s fast and people love it.”

Slices of Blackberry BreadTrue, people like it, but this past summer I’ve started adjusting the recipe to one and a half times the ingredients because the loaves are not high enough when I don’t, and then the measurements are a tad more complicated (I did say this is the lazy way I think on exhausted days).

Still, she’s right. Blackberry bread is a good option for days that call for speed and simplicity: understaffed housekeeping days, 20-bag shopping days, fifteen-check-ins days, or days when an A/C breaks down after the housekeepers left and the only spare we have is too heavy to handle. (Not to mention days with the kinds of unpredictable events all innkeepers could write books about, if they had time).


The Recipe

What makes blackberry bread easier and yet more interesting in flavor than some of the other quick breads we make? Well, for one thing, the recipe we have is from cooks.com, one of those no frills recipe sites I described in my last blog post,https://camdenmotel.com/2016/12/07/our-cake-that-wont-last-aka-banana-pineapple-walnut-bread/ Which means, it’s a list of ingredients and a miniature paragraph of basic instructions.  Take a look:

photo (3)(The only adjustment I would highly recommend: don’t use quite as much oil; just a bit more than a cup is good enough)

I’m not saying that the shorter the recipe, the less time consuming it is to make (I’ve learned my lesson in that regard). But in this case, there is a correlation. Also important: we always have all the ingredients at hand, unlike, say, for cranberry orange bread, which usually requires a special orange buying errand in the summer. Or for strawberry rhubarb bread: we almost never have rhubarb. Could we change that? Yeah, probably… If we find space to grow our own rhubarb. Or buy a lot in May and freeze it. Or investigate the frozen rhubarb situation….

Ok, this calls for a further short digression. I just looked at the rhubarb situation online, and it’s not a pretty picture. Frozen rhubarb is expensive and not that easy to find in large quantities. To the point that a special rhubarb website has a whole page devoted to where to get frozen rhubarb:   http://www.rhubarb-central.com/buy-frozen-rhubarb-united-states-canada.html
So, if we want to make rhubarb breads and muffins all year, we better buy a lot of rhubarb in May and freeze it.blackberry

But back to blackberries. These guys are pricey when fresh, but – at least from the supplier we use – are more affordable frozen than raspberries are. Or even blueberries – go figure. Maybe it’s about size – the smaller the fruit, the more expensive? At any rate, we always have a large bag or two of frozen blackberries around, which makes blackberry bread a year round option. Also, this recipe is oil- rather than butter – based, and that’s always a minute or two faster for anyone who buys butter wholesale (Our butter comes in 1 lb packs rather than pre-apportioned sticks).

You don’t have to beat the eggs any more than just briefly by hand before mixing them in with everything else, and nothing has to be whipped to the point of fluffiness and puffiness. There’s no need to sift the dry ingredients, or to use a stand mixer – in fact, it’s better not to, since you just mix everything until combined. The one slightly more time intensive task is to halve the frozen blackberries, which I do because ours are large – but that’s optional and would be even easier to do with fresh blackberries. If you buy your walnuts in halves rather than chopped, you’ll have to do some additional chopping. But as with the berries, walnuts are pretty low maintenance when it comes to their readiness to go under the knife. If you don’t have walnuts, you could use pecans instead. Or chocolate chips, if you don’t mind the extra sweetness. Or simply, nothing!

Ok, so blackberry bread is quick for us to make, but what’s in it for the guests who eat it? It remains moist for several days, although that’s not all that unusual for oil based loaf breads. Siobhan’s lemon bread and my pumpkin bread are long term moisture retainers too, and could probably be served two days after coming out of the oven, without anyone complaining. But there is something special about the taste of this bread, which seems to come entirely from the spices, maybe in conjunction with the blackberries. Best of all, these are all common spices, which – unless you’re a baking virgin – you probably have around. If not, they’re super easy to find, even if you live in the middle of nowhere and don’t have time to wait for an Amazon delivery. Your convenience store on the corner might carry them too!

imageNow, the fact that this blackberry bread is a simple loaf pan recipe also comes with one drawback: its complete lack of pomp and circumstance. If you want to sell out first in a bake sale, or win a kids’ popularity contest, go for something else. Blackberry bread is an unassuming, modest little thing – one might even call it a bit homely. It’s smallish and darkish, no splashy contrasts like white frosting on chocolate cake, or lavish fruit and whipped cream decorations, or even just a bright standout color like lemon bread. You could put a glaze on it of course, or at least dust it with powdered sugar (or maybe a glaze and sprinkles on top of it?) – but even so, it won’t steal the show like a tray of frosted cup cakes, summery fruit tarts, or a perfectly shaped bundt cake centerpiece with glistening chocolate glaze.

With blackberry bread, you’ll have to rely on its skill of quiet persuasion. It helps to serve it on as beautiful a plate as possible, perhaps with some fresh blackberries dotting the rim. Especially if you use that powdered sugar I mentioned, and let the blackberries sit on a bed of fake snow. The rest is up to the bread itself – just let it do its job and see what happens!


How to Make Our “Cake that Won’t Last” – aka Banana Pineapple Walnut Bread (Plus a few words about recipe styles)

By Katja

We’ve served the “cake that won’t last” many times, but we’ve never actually called it by its name on the breakfast board. We don’t want to brag, nor be secretive about its ingredients: after all, if people don’t know what they’re eating, they might not eat it, which in turn means it’ll be a cake that will last. We want this cake to remain a Towne Motel favorite and live up to its name – even if that name remains a secret (for anyone other than readers of this blog).

Don't try to find this on Amazon!

Don’t try to find this on Amazon!

So we usually call it banana pineapple walnut bread, or pineapple banana cake with walnuts, which is pretty much what the major flavors are. Besides sugar, of course. But sugar isn’t really a flavor, is it? And baked goods aren’t always named after their main ingredients; otherwise most would have names like, “sugar egg cake with butter and flour,” or “buttery pound cake with beaten eggs,” or maybe just BSFE cake. I guess the word “cake” or “cookies” implies these standard ingredients, just like the word “candy” implies sugar. Which raises the question, how did sugar cookies get their name? Do they have more sugar than other cookies? Is sugar the only flavor they have?

But I digress. The recipe for this banana pineapple walnut bread comes from a spiral bound Nebraska cookbook, acquired while we lived and taught there (and where we did a lot less baking than we do here). I bought it in Wayne, Nebraska, at the local B&B called Grandma Butch’s, where I stayed while looking for housing in town. (The inn closed soon thereafter, I can’t remember why. I’m pretty confident it wasn’t my fault).. A lot of recipes in the notebook sound old-fashioned – or maybe just traditionally Midwestern: Jello salads, applesauce bread, chicken and dressing casserole. A baked corn casserole with five ingredients: spaghetti, chopped onion, creamed canned corn, whole canned corn, and Velveeta. (!) “Easy Cornbread” made of equal parts Jiffy cornbread mix and Jiffy yellow cake mix. And these are all inn recipes! Homebaked, but with processed ingredients. Sort of from scratch, but not really. Most B&Bs wouldn’t be able to get away with that now, at least not in our neck of the woods…

Minimalist Recipes

The “cake that won’t last” is one of those minimalist recipes that don’t give you much information other than the list of ingredients, followed by directions that seem to have skipped a few steps. Something like, “Put in large loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.” (The latter is part of a pound cake recipe from the same cookbook. I made it; it’s great. I guess if you’ve made other pound cakes, you really don’t need more than the list of ingredients)

It would be hard to find such cut-to- the-chase recipes on popular food and baking blogs, but if you have any old cookbooks or handwritten recipes inherited from previous generations, you will know what I mean. (Online, I’ve primarily found them on cooks.com, a good no-frills recipe site) Short, to the point recipes were probably all written by housewives for housewives, most of whom could think of more exciting things to talk about than cake and casserole recipes. Women who expected their audience to know how and in which order to handle ingredients. And women who would never idealize or even fetishize baking and cooking, because it wasn’t their passion – it was their job.

My mom sends me yeast bread recipes in the minimalist category: a list of ingredients, followed by the direction, “make a yeast dough.” Nothing about the rise times and order of ingredients. Sometimes the amounts are ballpark figures (3 1/2 – 4 cups of flour), or simply a bit vague: “lemon,” it would say, or “salt” or “vanilla.” I’m expected to know the specifics, since, after all, she’s been telling me these things ever since she taught me about baking. If you make something often enough, my mom says, you make it according to “Gefuehl und Wellenschlag,”– a German expression that doesn’t make much sense once you think about it or try to translate it: “feeling and wave pounding.” Basically, it means you play it by ear and go by instinct and experience. No idea how this expression came about.

Cake that Won’t Last – The Recipe

The recipe for our banana pineapple walnut “cake that won’t last” is a bit more detailed than other minimalist recipes, but not very helpfully so. You start by beating 3 eggs, and then mixing in – in this order, supposedly – 3 cups flour, 3 cups sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 ½ tsp. vanilla – followed by 1 cup oil (not clear what kind), 2 cups diced banana, one 8 oz can pineapple (I assume crushed, but that’s not clear, nor is it clear whether it should be drained or not. I drain it), and ½ cup chopped black walnuts (regular walnuts are fine).

A Nebraska "Cake That Won't Last"

If you’ve ever tried to add 6 cups of dry stuff to 3 beaten eggs, you probably know that at best, you’ll end up with dry, sandy streusel. So I begin to mix in the wet stuff earlier, which is still a bit of a struggle because you’re supposed to do it by hand. I remind myself that I’ve made this before and it always works out, so I just keep going until it all becomes one wet, unified mess. So, if you like the feeling of seeing something work out that seemed at first impossible, this is the cake for you! It actually feels less and less impossible the more often you make it. And you’ll probably make it often – unless you’re not a baker, of course.

The unbaked cake, awaiting its transformation

The unbaked cake, awaiting its transformation

I always use a 9 by 13 baking pan for this cake, but loaf pans would probably work just as well, as long as you adjust the baking time (how, I’m not sure, but I’m sure Google can figure it out). The temp is the usual: 350 degrees. We have a note next to the recipe, from the one time Siobhan tried her hand at it: “Do NOT bake in a 9×13 pan; it took one hour and 40 minutes.” I’d take that advice with a double tablespoon of salt – that never happened to me. Maybe she got punished somehow for making one of my recipes? The directions say 40 minutes (in a jelly roll pan – which we never use, and probably don’t own), and, as far as I know, it doesn’t take any more than 60. But I just use the eyeball and cake tester method, so I don’t remember the exact time. My note next to the recipe says: “Good! Order of ingredients doesn’t seem to matter.”

The final product, minus two pieces stolen by Siobhan before I could take the picture!

The final product, minus two pieces stolen by Siobhan before I could take the picture!

There is something pretty great about one-paragraph recipes. Sure, they can be confusing for anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing: no step by step photo instructions or fool proof explanations. No stooping down to “visual learners”: there are usually no photos at all, much less photo tutorials of how to beat egg whites or pour sugar into a bowl. But I like the fact that minimalist recipes aren’t self-absorbed and self-indulgent. Unlike most baking blog recipes, they don’t try to promote a whole website and persona along with the recipe. They don’t tell you about the author’s dog and husband and pre-blog career, much less her new kitchen gadgets or the stages of her pregnancy. They don’t come with an entourage of pop-up ads or corporate endorsements (unless they’re in a Kraft or Pillsbury cookbook, of course), and they don’t shower you with ten shiny photos of the final product barely distinguishable from each other. The little you see is what you get: a list of ingredients, and basic instructions.

Chatty Baking Blog Recipes

That said, chatty recipe blog posts have some personality and can be more fun to read, as long as they aren’t cluttered by newsletter invites and reminders from the last websites you shopped on (and they almost always are). Their authors are almost all female, usually in their thirties, and their blog personas tend to be enthusiastic, humorous, and full of creative and business energy. Many of them celebrate baking, writing, family, and the blogger’s pets, house, kitchen, garden, and local markets. Most of all, they make public what used to be mostly private and domestic: the collective traditional housewife experience, when women shared handwritten recipes, cooked and baked, and fed the results to neighbors, friends and family. These used to be everyday activities in most women’s lives; but they weren’t publicly discussed or valued, and most certainly didn’t get paid or written about. Some baking bloggers are new mothers or mothers to be, having quit their jobs at least temporarily to be with the kid(s). Blogging allows them to turn their creative passions and new home lives into something more public and fulfilling.

Successful baking blogs often create a fantasy of a busy and productive, yet largely stress-free, fulfilling home life celebrating women’s traditional creative work and community. But a successful baking blog is only partly about nostalgia; it’s almost an ideal marriage of past and present, and that might be its main appeal for female readers. Food bloggers spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and much of their daily lives resemble that of a traditional stay at home mom. But they’re not ignored, alone, and working for free, and they take on a host of other identities as well:  entrepreneur, writer, chef, photographer, teacher, webmaster – perhaps even a minor Internet sensation or soon to be cookbook author. They might see themselves as food artists, designers, and architects, multi media style – creating food, documenting their creations in words and images, photographing, facebooking, instagramming, and pinning them.

Food blogging also involves storytelling; at least two different kinds, with the recipe at the center of both.

There is written storytelling: stories and anecdotes about the recipe’s origin, what it means to its author, why it got to be on her blog, how she tweaked it to make it even better, and how it has performed at parties and holiday meals.

There is also visual storytelling – the photo story of the recipe instructions, starting with a mouthwatering shot of the final product in its glory, and followed by step by step visuals how to get there. (A bit like a movie that starts with the ending, and then goes back to the beginning with something like “Ten years earlier”). The suspense, such as there is, is about the how rather than the what. The story pretty much follows the traditional linear narrative structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion.

In drama and fiction, the exposition introduces at least parts of the setting and characters; in recipe photo stories, the setting is always a kitchen; and the “characters” are primarily the ingredients, secondarily the tools – often introduced together, as if in a group portrait.

Next is the rising action, when the “characters” are beginning to do things or having things happen to them. In the case of a pound cake, let’s say, the butter is usually the first to come on stage: relaxing and softening in the microwave, it gets ready to gyrate with the sugar in a stand mixer (almost always Kitchenaid). Then the eggs come (or are forced?) out of their shells and start mingling, one by one, with the spiraling mass on the (Kitchenaid) dance floor. Meanwhile, in another part of the kitchen, the flour and other dry ingredients get ready together before joining the rest of the party. Once everyone (including any late arrivals, such as sour cream, fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc) has thoroughly mingled into a batter, we get to admire its shape in a baking pan, waiting to go into the oven.

A modicum of suspense might kick in at this point – at least for anyone who forgot what the final product looks like – to be followed by the climax(es): photos of the finished product. From any angle, fresh out of the oven, released from the baking pan, glazed, iced or dusted with powdered sugar, maybe even served to someone, with tea or coffee, flowers and napkins. Some photo stories end with a half eaten piece of cake, which could  qualify as the “falling action,” (almost literally so), and /or some wrap up comments by the author – the resolution or conclusion.

Close-up, ready for encounter with taste buds

Close-up, ready for encounter with taste buds

As you can tell, these photo stories don’t have a very exciting plot. Characters don’t overcome obstacles or go through conflicts or set off on journeys to end up somewhere you never predicted. Not that baking can’t be adventurous: ingredients and tools can act unpredictably, bakers can fall asleep while their cakes are burning and shriveling in the oven (I’m speaking from experience); baking pans can refuse to release their contents, and dogs can demolish any masterpiece in a matter of seconds. Baking blog stories are different: you know that everything will turn out well. There may be some challenges along the way, like tricky timing or decorating, but in the end, ingredients are happily united, baked to perfection, and memorialized by a series of perfect photographs.

Clearly but hopefully not unfortunately, this post turned out very differently from what I had planned. I was just going to give you the recipe for our “cake that won’t last,” add some comments, and be done with it. But then I wandered off into comparisons between old-fashioned minimalist recipes and the chatty blog recipes I’ve come across in the past few years, baking for guests. And in the process this one became a very chatty post itself: more than three pages of discussion and digressions about a one paragraph recipe! Which reminds me of my ex-students, who often wondered how anyone can assign, much less write, a 3-5 page paper on a one-stanza poem. Dear reader, forgive me – it seems you can take a teacher out of academia, but a part of academia will always remain in the teacher. Which means, of course, that this lesson concludes with some homework:

Make the cake! It’s easy, it’s good, and you can call it whatever the heck you want. You won’t even get graded – except by the people you feed it to, and they will probably give you an A :).

More Midcoast Maine Swimming Holes: Goodies Beach in Rockport Harbor

Goodies beach

By Katja

I think the first time we heard about Goodies Beach was from Leah, our head housekeeper, who talked about swimming there during low or retreating tide, when the water is warmer. She didn’t call it Goodies Beach though (I’ve never heard anyone use that name); she probably just referred to it as the beach at Rockport Harbor. Leah is an early riser – for hardy Maine standards, “early” is about 4 am, maybe even sooner – and sometimes she used to swim before she came to work (although I think that was before our time here. Now she seems to prefer sunrise clamming to swimming). It was late fall by the time we discovered the beach in person: it’s a small sandy strip next to the Harbor Master’s house, seemingly in hiding not only from the road, but even from the parking lot. Of course by hat time it was too cold to swim (for anyone other than Polar Bear Plungers); so it took us another seven months to finally test the waters.

A perfect June evening!

A perfect June evening!

Hanging out in Harbor Park, early evening

Hanging out in Harbor Park, early evening

The day was hot, housekeeping had just gotten done, check-in time hadn’t officially started – and we knew we needed something to keep us going through the rest of the day.We decided to put up a sign at the office door and play hooky for an hour. We drove with the top down, stopped at a kids’ lemonade stand, and by the time we got to the beach (about five minutes later) we felt like we had no more cares in the world than a kid on a summer’s day. For an hour, anyway.

I usually warm up a bit in the sun before swimming in cold water, but there wasn’t much time, so in we went, past the kids playing by the shoreline. Oh boy — it was cold. (Do half of my swim posts contain a sentence like that? Probably). And yet ours were not the only heads bopping along with the buoys in the harbor; a few others seemed just as anxious to get the swim season started.  Here is one thing that’s so great about swimming (there are many!): even if the water or air are a bit too cold, the way you feel afterwards just can’t be beat. I think it’s about being immersed in another element, water not air, and then you return – cleansed, massaged, transformed – to your regular, non-liquid world. Something like that. On that day, our “Goodies” dip gave us exactly what we had come for: a big boost for the rest of the day, and the feeling that summer had definitely started.

Goodies Beach - the only time I've seen it crowded!

Goodies Beach – the only time I’ve seen it crowded!

There are several things I like about Goodies Beach: although it’s small even for Maine beach standards, it never feels crowded or noisy, not even when two or three small groups of people are there at the same time. If the parking lot looks busy, it doesn’t mean the beach is: many come to hang out in the park or go out on the schooner Heron, which leaves from Rockport Harbor three to four times a day. Sometimes special events like fundraising meals or small wedding receptions take place under a large tent in the park, but they hardly ever affect the beach. Also, you can swim close to the anchored boats and have a nice view of the opposite shore with its beautiful homes and woods. There’s even an apple tree by the beach, so in September you can share the water with premature apples that have tumbled down the sandy slope. Restrooms, showers, hoses to clean off dogs or feet are all available, and even a small washer/dryer area. I’ve never seen anyone use it, but I’m sure there is a reason for its existence: probably boat people?

Our first summer here I spent a lot more time at Laite Beach in Camden than at Rockport Harbor; this past year it was the other way around. My swim season started late this summer:  I didn’t even try for an ocean swim until July.  I had badly sprained my ankle in March, the healing process was slow enough to lose at a snails’ marathon, and I had to relearn many things, including how to be barefoot (I often wore water shoes instead). As a local friend and fellow innkeeper told me, I had disobeyed the golden innkeeper rule: you can’t break or sprain things! You need to be able to move around at all times, especially if you own a big building like we do.  Most beaches in Midcoast Maine are rocky, so I didn’t have a lot of choices for my first beach visit of the year: Rockport Harbor is one of the only sandy ones I know. (Laite Beach is both sand and fine gravel, but it has more steps and hills to negotiate before you get down to the beach. The kinds of things you have to think about when you’re not stable on your feet).

Anyway, my first beach outing was on a hot July afternoon, and the only other person, at first, was a woman just arriving in her kayak. During the time she parked it and rested for a bit, I had the water to myself. Not that I needed it for long – it seemed just as cold as the previous year in June. But I did swim, a hair-only-half-wet prelude swim to a longer one a bit later, after a warm up in the sun. The next time my eyes scanned the water, I saw kayak woman swimming leisurely out by the boats, entirely unfazed by the temperature. Two moms with offspring had also arrived, and the kids – super cute 5-10 year old girls – were exploring the water in the multiply creative way kids do at the beach. I have to confess I don’t usually find kids’ play relaxing to watch and listen to (not if it involves a lot of shrieking and screaming), but that day it was. I briefly wondered whether that was because everyone around me was female – but no, that wouldn’t make sense; women are often louder and less peaceful than men (although little girls usually seem to be quieter than little boys – when they play together, anyway).

Still, this beach seems like a very female space in my experience. It’s small, protected, enclosed and feels safe, and the main visitors are younger women with their kids, as well as middle aged and older women who like to swim. One unusually busy day this past summer,  I counted almost twenty heads on the beach –  all of them female except for one little boy and one father with his family. Even the harbormaster is a woman, and so is at least one of the people who work in and around the harbor master’s house (the assistant harbor master?). She’s always willing to help with one thing or another, talks to everyone, seems to know all the locals, and gives advice to tourists.

Whether feminine or not, Goodies Beach is almost always peaceful – not because it’s always quiet, but because most everyone who comes here seems to have left behind whatever else they may have going on. I remember  one day when I was by myself and yet had to listen to a guy on his boat screaming into his phone – but generally, it seems like there is something calming about the place. Maine is full of calm places, of course (Woods! Mountains! Hundreds of lakes! Places without people!)– but even popular spots with small crowds of visitors can often feel relaxing in Maine. Siobhan thinks that visitors here are more respectful, more capable of adapting to the local nature and culture than in other touristy places where she’s lived and visited. If that is true, I wonder if it’s because Maine has a powerful effect on people, or because people coming to Maine are already of a different breed than, say, the average tourist in Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City. I saw an article recently about what your vacation says about your personality or character type. It claimed that introverts are more likely to head to the mountains on vacation, while extroverts prefer the beach. That sounds a bit simplistic to me – if only for its implied definition of “the beach” as something warm and Southern or tropical, populated by thousands of roasting bodies flaunting their tans and taking them back to the bar for margaritas and more socializing. Most beaches in Maine don’t even remotely fit that description. Maybe this article would consider Maine as a whole a vacationland for introverts – perhaps with the exception of Lobsterfest crowds and groups of family and friends renting vacation homes. But if so, does that mean the majority of our guests are introverts? I never got that impression – unless you define introverted as  quiet and considerate to others!.


Unscientific digressions aside, Rockport Harbor Beach became my go-to beach for hot sunny days: it’s close, convenient, sandy, relaxing, and it works well for swimming during all tides (except perhaps at the peak of high tide, when there is barely a beach). The water had warmed up a lot by August, and seemed warmer this year than at Camden’s Laite Beach; it doesn’t have as many cold pockets to swim through. And even in the middle of September it was still just as warm as in August. For a longer beach afternoon, I would recommend Laite because it’s much bigger, but Rockport has fewer tourists (if any). And both have a lot of boats to feast your eyes on. (They both run out of sun in the later afternoon, and they both have occasional pollution warnings, which many people seem to ignore)

fox on the run food truck  food truck rockport beach

Around the harbormaster’s house to the side of the beach, there is an elevated grassy park area with benches (part of the Marine Park). People bring their lunches, books, cameras, and dogs to this area, and some sit on the ledge right next to the beach having a picnic, feet dangling above the water. During high tide I sometimes saw kids jump into the water from there. For a few hours a day, until Labor Day, a food truck next to the harbormaster’s house sells salads, fish tacos, burritos, Cuban and Vietnamese sandwiches, and even desserts. I’ve never tried anything there, but it looks fun and better than your average food truck. When it wasn’t warm enough to swim yet (or not warm enough anymore) I took my yoga mat to the park, for sun, relaxation, and for whatever exercises my ankle didn’t complain about.

Mother daughter regulars at Goodies Beach

Mother daughter regulars at Goodies Beach

That’s what I was up to one beautiful late September day when, after about a hundred ab crunches, I realized it was a lot warmer than I had expected. Meaning, it would be a lot more fun to swim than to look at the water from above, even if that look was upside down, from a downward dog position. I was lucky: my backpack still harbored a swim suit and my goggles from a previous outing. It was low tide and I had the beach to myself at first. The water was colder than the week before, but no colder than at the height of summer the year before – and still very swimmable. I might’ve kept my head a little drier than the previous week, but it still felt as amazing as it had all summer. And afterwards it was warm enough to lie around in a wet bathing suit for almost a half hour. Watching the only other visitors, a young woman teaching her daughter how to look for hermit crabs and other goodies, I got a distinct end of summer feel. The thought crossed my mind that this might’ve been my last ocean swim of the season – but it didn’t even make me feel sad. Endings can be fine if they’re good ones – and this swim had been a very good one indeed.

Rockport Harbor from the deck at Saltwater Farm

View from the deck at Saltwater Farm

P.S. I should probably add that Rockport Harbor is a great place to visit year-round, not just when you can play in the water. There’s the statue of Andre the seal, the Rockport Opera House next to two excellent restaurants with views onto the water (Shepherd’s Pie and Saltwater Farm); and the weekend after Camden’s Christmas by the Sea, Rockport has its Marine Park Christmas celebrations, complete with tree lighting, hot cider, homemade cookies and other goodies, luminaries lining the streets, pictures with Santa, and the best fireworks we’ve seen in years. The water can be very pretty in the winter too, when it’s cold enough to have frozen into shiny geometric plates of ice.

Ice in Rockport Harbor

Christmas fireworks in Rockport Harbor - photo by PenBay Pilot

Christmas fireworks in Rockport Harbor – photo by PenBay Pilot






Swimming Midcoast Maine: Rocky Pond and Snapping Turtles

Swim Access at Rocky Pond

Swim Access at Rocky Pond

by Katja

I have no idea how Rocky Pond got its name: there is no rocky shore or rocky beach, and not a lot of rocks in the water, from what I can tell. Maybe it’s just “Rocky Pond” because it’s in Rockport, or West Rockport, to be more exact; although if that’s the case, then nearby Maces Pond (which I wrote about last year) should probably be “Rocky Pond II.”

A small turnoff at the side of Route 17, just South of 90, plays the role of parking lot for visitors of Rocky Pond, and a partial clearing with soft pine needle underground leads to the lake. There is more space to hang out by the water than there is at Maces Pond, so you’re also more likely to find someone other than yourself there. But in my half dozen or so visits this past summer, two families swimming with their kids was the most crowded I ever saw it. Twice there was a young couple just sitting by the lake, and another time a woman was watching her daughter swim. For my own swims, I always had the lake to myself, and it was fabulous. The temperature was just about perfect every time; and the play of light and colors seemed to make this lake even more scenic than Maces Pond. But something about it puts me a little on guard when I go there by myself, maybe because it can feel like an eerie fairy tale setting, with the dark trees and forested beach. In the modern version of this vision, I can see a crime scene unfolding there, straight out of Unsolved Mysteries or a Lifetime movie:  two young girls, let’s say, taking a dip in the pond to cool down during an afternoon bike ride, never to be seen again; only the bikes, hastily thrown against a tree, remain as witnesses.

Well, maybe not that bad. But I do think about someone coming by while I’m swimming, stealing my car keys and leaving me stranded. Maybe I should look into a waterproof key container? As long as I know how not to lose it in the lake…

Imagined crime scenarios aside, Rocky Pond is a beautiful swimming spot. I’d love to swim all across the lake some time (once I have that key container…), but that’s not necessary for a great experience. The water is clean, fresh, and perfect on your skin – and even though the road is close by, it can feel like you’re swimming in your own private lake. One day I wanted to show Siobhan, so we stole away for an hour during housekeeping on a quiet midweek morning in September. Two fishermen had arrived before us, and they weren’t too thrilled about the arrival of two swimmers about to disturb their prey. So they started to talk about snapping turtles – probably thinking we were silly women tourists who would be scared away by any mention of Maine wildlife. (I wonder if they would’ve acted quite the same with a family, lest they be accused of trying to scare kids away from a fun swimming trip). We got the feeling they just wanted to get rid of us, and for that reason alone, we should’ve stayed. But we didn’t exactly feel like undressing and getting in the water in front of them – and then Leah, our head housekeeper, had warned about turtles too (she still likes to do the “scaring people from away” thing with us occasionally). Most of all, even if the chance was small, we didn’t really want to lose our toes. Last thing I needed with my still recovering sprain was another foot problem. So off we drove, down the road to Maces Pond, where we luxuriated in having an even bigger body of water, all to ourselves.


Or so we thought, until we saw a car pulling in by the side of the road. Yup, it was the fisher guys again, probably on a tour of ruining swimming spots for swimmers and trying to make them fishing spots instead. We’d asked them about turtles in Maces Pond, so they must’ve known we would go there. Creepy! Since we obviously had no idea how long they’d stay, my plan was to just get out and ignore them. But I ended up agreeing with Siobhan’s plan: just to stay in the water and make as many splashing noises and movements as possible so they wouldn’t be able to fish. After all, if they could ruin our swimming plan at Rocky Pond, we might as well ruin their fishing plans for Maces Pond.

Well, it worked. One of the guys didn’t seem to be into it; the other was the turtle storyteller. He did cast out his pole, as if in a little phallic power display, just to annoy us for a while or make us feel uncomfortable. But he gave up eventually, having caught nothing, and off they went, probably to the next swimming hole. We drove back later than expected, imagining the story we might have to tell potential early walk-in guests: Ugh, sorry we weren’t here. We had to splash around in a lake to shoo away some fisher men; I’m sure you understand…

Could I ever have imagined such territorial encounters in Maine? On the Jersey Shore, sure, people fight over a few square feet of sand on the beach, or over the position of a yoga mat in the gym – but two men against two women over two otherwise empty lakes in Maine?? That’s pretty absurd.

P.S. I did some snapping turtle research after this encounter, and found that they aren’t out to look for trouble. They only snap when provoked, and usually stay at the bottom of a muddy lake or stream looking for prey. Several people I know grew up swimming in Rocky Pond, among them my physical therapist. He said that there is no danger from turtles unless you try to provoke them. “You gotta be a stupid kid trying to poke them – then you can worry about toe attacks,“ he told me. “Everyone else is safe.”  I made a few more visits to the pond and had a lovely swim each time.  My toes have yet to meet a turtle.

P.P.S. Snapping turtles can get very big though, up to 35 lbs, and they look kind of scary, like a prehistoric reptile. See pics!

A snapping turtle in Acadia National Park

A snapping turtle in Acadia National Park

Towne Motel Granola

By Siobhan and Katja


Siobhan here.

This blog post is dedicated to our friends Bill and MaryAnne, wonderful many-time repeat guests and big TM granola fans.  They will soon be moving into their new Camden home and just recently stayed their last night with us!


The Granola Bowl at Center Stage

Towne Motel granola is our absolute, hands-down, guest-favorite breakfast item.  I know this because:

1. I’m in charge of running breakfast, and the dining parlor gets all quiet and happy on granola days. You know that sound and feeling, when you cook or bake something and it turns out really well, and your guests all go quiet because they’re enjoying it so much?

2.  It’s by far our most-requested recipe, and one I’ve promised several guests to feature in a blog post.

3.  Many guests have said it’s the best granola they’ve ever had.

4.  They ask where they can buy it.  And are amazed that we make our own!

We briefly considered selling gift-sized bags of our granola at the front desk….and then we envisioned the reality: us making batch after batch, the ovens running on hot summer afternoons (even more than they already are), the doorbell and phone ringing all the while.  Like Lucy  and Ethel on the chocolate-factory assembly line.  We abandoned that idea.  TM granola will remain an on-site pleasure.

Katja is the granola chef and I used to worry that the granola was too much work.  But she’s now got it down to a science: 12 minutes to put it together!  It’s true.  If you have all the ingredients and make it a few times, you can start knocking out batches at home.  Everyone will love you.

Recently, Katja got a bit bored with making the same recipe and wanted to try a variation or two.  So we made it into a contest, with ballots.  Our traditional TM granola won by a 2:1 margin.  (Some guests didn’t vote, probably thinking it was strange.  Others really got into the spirit of it and we suspect may have voted more than once.)

granola2I’m going to hand this off to Katja now so you can get the recipe from her.

granola 1



HI! Katja here. I think Siobhan suspects I might not limit myself to the recipe itself, and indeed I won’t. (But don’t worry – I won’t get carried as far away as I usually do in blog posts) Let’s start with some additions and comments on Siobhan’s paragraphs:

– I don’t think the granola is necessarily the most popular of our offerings, but it’s up there, yes – with the advantage that it is liked by many many different people who might otherwise have very different tastes. And whenever it’s offered, most people go for it – because if they have any qualms about indulging in scones or coffee cake at 8 in the morning, they may not think the same guilty thoughts about granola. (Although this granola, like granola in general, isn’t exactly a guilt free treat)

– I can make it in less than 12 minutes! Especially if all the ingredients are where they should be, instead of hiding or lost somewhere else in the kitchen. But I think it’s become less of a science and more of a laissez-faire operation, meaning I’m not quite as picky about the exact measurements anymore.

– I made two other granolas during the last month – the first one a popular internet recipe called “Megan’s granola”, and the other a healthier NYT granola recipe, because it was the day two guests arrived who specifically requested a healthy breakfast. They did not let us in on their definition of “healthy” (protein-rich? Low fat? Vegan? Low calorie? Low sugar?), and they turned out to be pretty low key about it, but I thought it best to be prepared. So, this time I searched for “healthy” and “best healthy” rather than just “best” granola recipes, with oat bran and/or wheat germ, neither of which is part of our Towne Motel granola.

Granola voting station

Interestingly, the healthy one I think was a lot better than the other one, but neither of them came close to Towne Motel granola in popularity. And on top of that, they were more complicated to make. Which means it’s time to come clean about our source, lest we be accused of plagiarizing: it’s a Food Network recipe created by Alton Brown. (super easy to Google)

And now, finally – The Recipe!! Here it is, complete with annotations and adaptations:

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (I usually use a bit more by ladling generous cups, probably about 3 1/2 cups)

I cup sliced almonds

1 cup cashews, in pieces or halfs and pieces (even roasted and salted cashews work great)

3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes (or a bit more)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (I use light brown) – or a bit less

optional (not part of the original recipe): a few shakes of cinnamon

Mix all these in a large bowl. In a measuring jar, mix

– 1/4 cup vegetable oil

– 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup

– about 1/2 tsp salt

– optional (not part of the original recipe): 1-2 tsp vanilla

Pour over and mix into dry ingredients, making sure everything is coated equally. Spread onto two baking sheets (no need to use parchment paper or cooking spray, though it’s probably fine if you do), and bake in a pre-heated 250 degree oven for about an hour and 15 minutes, stirring at least twice during the baking time. Pour/ladle/push/scrape  into a large bowl and add about a cup of craisins or raisins or a mix of both. Have a taste while it’s still warm! That way you know what to look forward to for breakfast the next morning.

What makes this recipe so easy and convenient?

– For one, the wet ingredients don’t have to be cooked or heated, like in other recipes. Just mix well, then mix with dry ingredients.

– It’s easy to remember the ingredients and even the amounts if you just make a bit of an effort. That way, you don’t have to keep looking for and at the recipe, which is what always slows me down while baking. This recipe is fast because I’ve known it by heart for more than a year. All the grains and nuts are 1 cup each, with coconut the only exception. Both sweeteners, maple syrup and brown sugar, are 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons – easy to remember, after a while anyway.

– Since the prescribed oven temperature is low, the baking time is somewhat flexible, depending on how crunchy you want your granola (and depending on how often you’ll remember to check your oven). One time I dozed off for a nap and woke with a start – “The granola!!”- clearly expecting I’d have to make another batch that night. But no, there it was, just fine, if perhaps a bit crunchier and clumpier, but by no means burned. And no one complained the next morning.

– You can add or substitute a whole bunch of things and still have it taste distinctively like Towne Motel granola. We’ve added some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, used dry apricots or pineapple in addition to raisins, made a lower calorie /lower fat version for our health-conscious head housekeeper, added extra toasted coconut one time because I thought I’d forgotten the coconut, which I hadn’t – and it was all still very good.

– It keeps well, too, in a storage or freezer bag. You’ll notice the difference between freshly baked and one week old, but the one week old is still excellent. Even the two week old is good! I haven’t tried to freeze it yet, or substituted other nuts (I’d never leave out the cashews! And definitely not the coconut) – nor have I added chocolate chips or other more decadent ingredients. Maybe one day when we have a lot of kids, we could make half the bowl with some additional M&Ms, and see how that goes.

So, the bottom line: TM granola is easy, easy going, flexible, versatile, reliable, low maintenance (just like our favorite guests – :)) – and popular. If it were a presidential candidate, it would be a bit like people used to say about Walter Cronkite or Oprah for president: almost everyone can vote for it. It’s not a controversial menu item, this granola. Although I have to admit that didn’t stop us from having a debate about it once – later remembered as the quiche versus granola debate. But that would be the stuff for another blog post, if we ever feel like revisiting it – maybe on a long snowy winter night. 🙂








Innkeepers’ Cats – an Update

By Katja

How are those cats doing? Some of you have been wondering – and indeed it’s been a while since we last checked in with our innkeepers’ cats on this blog.  A few weeks ago, we celebrated  our 1 1/2 year anniversary of innkeeping, and are about to start another summer, so this would be a good time to report how the feline 2/3 of our household (made up of two humans and twice as many cats) have been doing,  two winters and one busy summer season under their belts.

Oscar and Tibby - on a retired Towne Motel towel

Oscar and Tibby – on a retired Towne Motel towel

Well, before we got busy last spring, Oscar, Harri and Tibby had adjusted somewhat to innkeeping life. Harri was probably the most successful, taking one day at a time, which worked out well for her once the season began. It also helped that she is the lowest maintenance cat we have, and that she can be happy in the sun just being by herself, or sleeping for hours on her yellow blanket on top of the couch. She likes to be in the middle of things (but not as the center of attention, like Tibby), even if she just rests or sleeps.  She loved our new deck in the backyard, and the tree perches we had built for her in the spring. If she happens to be somewhere where noises and people get a little too crazy, she does the same as when a vet visit is imminent: hide behind or under the couch, and come back out when the coast is clear.

Lady Harriet, scaling the pear tree

Lady Harriet, scaling the pear tree

Tibby, on the other hand, realized last spring that things were going to go a little out of (his) control, so he made a plan to get lots of attention before it was too late. Within a matter of weeks, he had  ramped up the volume and frequency of his demands, and successfully increased the number of daily brushings  from one or two to four or more. He made sure to have a new standard firmly in place before the season was in full swing, and this standard is still the norm today: at least two brushings per person per day. (It used to not matter so much who gave the brushings, but now he’s keeping track.)

Mr. Oscar  No Vacancy Nubble has not changed his mind in all these months: he would still rather live without the constant threat of phone calls, door bells, and random people walking into his territory without his permission. But instead of hiding from voices he hears from the dining room in the morning, which is what he did in the beginning, he learned how to relax back on the bed after his morning outings, safe in the assumption that none of these voices would make it up the stairs other than in sound form. I predict he’ll be shocked to see it all start up again, but at least he derives one big benefit from the change of seasons: he can be outside again, and he won’t need a door (wo)man to let him in and out. If it ever gets warm enough to turn off the heat this year, he’ll be going through the cat flap at least 25 times a day.

Little Maggie Mae, dancing in her sleep

Little Maggie Mae, dancing in her sleep

But I mentioned four feline members of the household before. Who is the fourth? Well, she’s the new kid – and the only one who actually has not lived through all these innkeeping seasons. She adopted us towards the end of October, when she was only 8 weeks old – so she hasn’t yet had a Towne Motel summer. She’s never experienced Lobsterfest, Bluesfest, or the Fourth of July – and during Windjammer Festival last year, she probably still had her eyes closed and didn’t roam far from her mother. Only during Toboggan championship weekend and the Camden Conference, our two busy February weekends, did she get a taste of the busy season. And we got a taste of the kind of innkeeper she’d make  – in case we collapse in the middle of the season and the fuzzy foursome are left in charge.

About a year ago we wrote about the other cats’ innkeeping styles: Oscar as the No Vacancy host, who would probably put the place up for sale this spring if we let him;  Harri as the live and let live innkeeper, who just wants things to be peaceful, and Tibby as the host of a cat therapy inn, meaning guests will improve their vacation by catering to Tibby, and any non-cat people  better learn how to fake it or risk having to go without breakfast or housekeeping.  (None of our cats have yet understood the concept of tripadvisor).

But I digress. Let’s get back to the new cat, little Maggie Mae, and whether she has what it takes to run this place. We could start with the fact that Maggie Mae is still a kitten, even if a rapidly growing one. Which means that putting her in charge would likely get us in trouble with child labor laws. However, given her smarts, independence, and insistence on ruling the roost, it would probably come naturally to her to take over the whole operation, just as long as she never has to compromise on her life and innkeeping philosophy: Eat, love, play – and sleep.  Ideally, each of them as hard as possible.  It’s the perfect philosophy  for our vacationing guests – most of them probably travel with at least three of these priorities in mind. But does it make sense for innkeepers to have the same philosophy as their guests? Maggie’s doesn’t include the word  “work,” after all. Is innkeeping possible without work?? Well, —read on.

photo 1

Maggie may not have any formal qualifications to be a Maine coast innkeeper, but she does have one big one compared to her siblings and us: she’s a native Mainer, and a local! She is also a Maine Coon cat, for the most part anyway. Two Maine strikes in her favor: that’s a good start. And then there is her boundless energy, essential for innkeepers during the busy season. No, it’s not the “zoom around the room” catnip in some of her toys that accounts for her craziness – she was Miss Energy Bunny from day 1, even on the day she got back from spaying. Instead of readjusting gradually, walking around dazed and confused, she left the other cats confused: who is that kitten that looks and acts like someone we know but smells like the vet and other animals?? Let’s hiss at her, just to be on the safe side.

ipadpainting is hard work!

The ipad artist, brainstorming room makeovers

Maggie is also a great multi tasker, or at least an easy task switcher. If something new catches her attention, she can refocus in an instant– a very useful skill for innkeepers, who might be in the middle of folding towels when a guest asks about the best lobster pound in the area at the same time as a housekeeper calls to check on her schedule. Which doesn’t mean that innkeeping Maggie would be a workaholic, stopping neither for chats nor a little ipad game. Just the opposite: at least 80% of her waking hours are about play. And that’s what she’d do with work: just turn it into play! Swiffering the kitchen floor? Fun!! Loading and unloading the dishwasher! More fun! So much, indeed, that she wouldn’t mind joining the dishes in their tumbling cycles, or the laundry in the dryer (or so she thinks). But she knows there are more important and less time consuming things to do – such as opening boxes full of deliveries (Maggie can be fully left in charge of this task, having never left a box unexamined), or putting phone reservations into the system. Ideally with some supervision for the latter: otherwise she’d be happy to assign room 6 to a guest on the 13th of July when what they wanted was room 16 on the 20th of August. But she’s familiar with keyboards and ipad screens, even if she is likely to fall asleep on them as soon as she is finished.keyboard Maggie

Room deliveries? No problem – with Maggie they’d be faster than ever. She has some of the markings of a cheetah, as well as some of its speed – whether it’s staircases or sprints, corner cuttings, or dashes along straight paths, onto perches, and across obstacles. All while carrying toy mice or fish, of course, and other deliverables to where she thinks they must be. She does expect praise and thank you’s for her deliveries – meaning, room service tips may well become a new reality around here. Not in the form of money, of course: you pay as you play with her instead.

If you’ve stayed with us before, and had to ring the office desk bell before we came in to greet you, know that your wait will be shortened with Maggie in charge: she always loves a good reason to swoop into the office, and check-in will be a breeze. Just a few good whiffs and sniffs, and maybe a payment of chase around the office, and she’ll hand over the keys.

Baking for breakfast? She’d be fine with that too: after all, it relates to eating, one of the main ingredients of her life philosophy. As long as she can bake with butter, that is – and she most certainly could. Probably 90% of our recipes boast butter as a major ingredient, and the freezer usually hosts at least 15 pounds of butter waiting to be whipped into batters. Maggie is always up for a taste of soft or melted butter when she’s in the vicinity. Unlike Oscar, though, a big fan of pumpkin, Maggie would never make pumpkin bread, and therefore probably shouldn’t be in charge of breakfast in the fall.

Maggie would even be happy to perform the occasional plumbing job, at least if it involves faucets, sinks, and showers. Dripping faucets wouldn’t be work for her at all: they’re fun! She’d be pleased to explore additional showers and sinks in the building – the ones she already knows have been getting a bit boring lately.

Maggie has some good marketing ideas as well. Not only has she been spotted on facebook, she’s also thought of various ways to get guests to stay or upgrade to a larger room. Just a sample of her ideas:

  • Room with a view upgrade: rent room 11 or 12, and receive guaranteed twice daily sightings of kitten innkeeper up in the pear tree right outside your window!
  • Soccer player discount: rent any room at half price if you spend at least a half hour a day playing soccer with kitten innkeeper. Bonus dinner coupon if soccer time can take place during average American dinner hours, sometime between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Ask for additional discounts for ad hoc soccer availability; sign up at the front desk.
  • Room with a view / play combo discount: rent a room with view to our patio,  and agree to play laser mouse with Maggie once darkness has fallen. Ask for laser mouse at the office desk, or better yet, bring your own. (And leave it behind: there can never be enough laser mice.)

    up the pear tree!

    Courage or craziness? One-upping Harri on the pear tree

The one thing Maggie Mae will have to insist on is a mid day siesta. She wouldn’t be as sleepy as our other cats when it comes to innkeeping duties, but she definitely needs some long breaks, and early to late afternoon is one of them.  Which means:  none of these pesky early check-ins, unless they have been pre-arranged and can be delegated to someone with a random post lunch wake time, such as…, well, it would have to be one of her humans; none of the other cats can be relied upon to greet early arrivals with anything more than a yawn. Likely Maggie would put a “No early check-ins!” policy firmly in place, and violators would be greeted by a sign saying “please nap on the lawn until the office reopens.”

Maggie would prefer late check-ins to early ones, as long as they don’t interrupt the feline family dinner time sometime shortly after 7.  These minutes demand her full attention – and that of her humans, who need to make sure she lets the other cats finish before their leftovers become the next stages of her four course meal. Would Maggie serve our guests a four course breakfast? It’s not impossible – but more likely she would teach them to procure it themselves. Just make sure, she’ll say, to get your hands on the returning trays and dishes during breakfast – some of these have leftovers on them, from muffin crumbs to yogurt remnants, and sometimes even a half piece of coffee cake someone couldn’t finish.  (Maggie doesn’t believe in wasting food) Guests will think of better ways to make breakfast into a four course meal  – maybe by starting with fruit, continuing to granola, followed by a muffin or a slice of banana bread, and finishing with yogurt. That’s fine with her too – it just wouldn’t have occurred to her.

the four course meal

wrapping up her four course breakfast…

What would Maggie want for the future when it comes to Towne Motel innkeeping? She probably wouldn’t want us, or herself, to be quite as busy as we are in the summer. There should always be plenty of time for play. When there is not enough play time before or after dinner, because of check-ins or breakfast prep, she gets a bit upset. She’d also join Oscar in her desire for a bigger outdoor space so she can do her crazy runs from one end to the other, across plants and furniture and up the pear tree. Oscar could easily sell her on the idea of imploding the garage, pet friendly room above it be damned. (They don’t really care about that room – they know pet friendly usually means dogs. And even when it doesn’t, having another cat on their territory isn’t any better – especially since they don’t even get to know  it). Maggie has noticed indoor expansion options as well, knowing there are doors leading to unknown rooms and hallways – such as the one leading to rooms 16 and 17. And that’s where she will likely agree with her siblings: make 16 and 17 off limits for guests, and turn it into more cat space instead!

Swimming in Maine: Better bring your Wigwams

wigwams  By Katja

In case you don’t know what Wigwams are: they’re among the best winter socks you can wear in Maine. Not that we’re experts in winter socks – I’m sure our education will continue this year – but we do know we’re not the only ones here to like Wigwams. After we discovered them last winter – at Reny’s, of course, our local/ neighborhood/ state department store (Buy 3 pairs, get one free) – we barely wore any other socks all winter. Except at the gym – although we could’ve stuck to Wigwams even there, had we known they make gym socks too. The point is – if you wear Wigwams, your feet won’t have any complaints all winter. The rest of you will probably still shiver, unless you have equally miraculous thermal underwear (Wigwam doesn’t make any – I checked), but your feet will be safe. And in the warmer seasons you might actually  miss them occasionally, when glimpsing them in the nether regions of your sock drawer; in which case you may sigh and say to yourself, oh well, it won’t be long until I get to wear these again. Even if you hate and dread winter, you’ll take comfort in the fact that, should it come around again, you’ll have your wigwams to help you get through it.

Or you might discover, as I did, that you really don’t have to be without your Wigwams for half of the year. You could just swim outdoors, from June to October, and I guarantee you’ll eventually, and automatically, reach for them again. Unless of course you swim only in heated pools and on hot days – in which case you’re probably not really up for Maine swimming anyway.

Wigwam swimming – Two cases in point

1)      At the beginning of the season: You can’t blame a pool woman for itching to swim once June has arrived and everything looks like summer (in Jersey, we used to open our pool in the end of April).This being Maine, I knew I had to start with a lake or pool, and I did. But one of my goals this summer was to find someplace convenient – close by, not too crowded, and swimmable (meaning, I’d actually be able to swim in it for a while, without jelly fish, high waves, lack of space, or freezing temps). Laite Memorial Beach here in Camden fulfilled the first three requirements, and I kept hoping the fourth would follow eventually. It’s the closest swimming hole to our place unless you count the two hotel / motel pools close by (no, I won’t mention names – sorry! J) – a nice ten-fifteen minute walk or 3 minute drive away. Not to mention it’s beautiful – adjacent to a nice park with Frisbee-catching dogs, in a beautiful neighborhood, with amazing views ,and, while it’s small  as beaches go, it offers a lot of typical beach pleasures, minus crowds and fees and vendors, and plus a scenic view of windjammers sailing in and out of the harbor.

Laite Memorial Beach in Camden, Maine

Laite Memorial Beach in Camden, Maine

Well, and minus the warm water temps. Which is too bad for someone who inherited her mother’s “see a body of water on a sunny warm day and  yearn to swim in it” gene.  (My Dad preferred hiking, and the rest of the family would accommodate him occasionally, but I can’t seem to remember any long hikes without at least one swim along the way.  I must’ve thought, as a kid, that it was normal for any hike worth its effort to include a swim related destination.  Which is probably why I don’t remember any proud mountain top picnics with spectacular vistas; our goals tended to be glacier lakes, not mountain tops. And we always swam in them, no matter how cold.)

Anyway – I had high hopes for my first Laite Beach swim of the season last year, towards the end of June. It had been a late 70s day, and we’d had a few other warm weeks – clearly, I’d given the water enough time to crank up some heat. Or so I hoped.

At that time of year, generally called “summer,” when you walk into the ocean in a temperate climate like the Jersey Shore or most of the West coast, you get used to the water body part by body part. Your feet aren’t usually cold for more than the first ten seconds, and the same goes for your knees. Once the water comes up to your stomach, your legs are ok – and so on. At Laite Beach, especially at low or medium tide, it takes a while to walk out to a swimmable water depth. And it takes even longer for any one body part to get used to the temps. By the time my stomach got wet, my feet still felt weird and tingly. Must be a little crab sting, I decided, and ignored it. That worked for a while, considering the increasing number of other cold body parts I could focus on instead. Breathing into it and pretending it was a hundred degrees and I had just moved back to Vegas helped a little, and eventually I got myself all the way in, and swam for about ten minutes. Well, no – maybe just five. But it seemed like fifteen; it even seemed like I’d exercised. Under extreme temperatures, hot or cold, you always feel like you did a lot more than you actually did.

When I got out, it was hard to walk. What had happened to my feet? They were numb and tingling at the same time, and … hmm, did I still have feet? I looked down. Yup, there they were, looking vaguely familiar, but they sure didn’t feel like my feet. I changed into a dry suit and made sure plenty of sun made contact with my feet. No, not good enough. It all just felt strange – definitely not harmless and normal enough to stay and relax, much less go for another swim. Best to walk back fast and then soak them in hot water or something. Rats – so much for my beachy, relaxing afternoon break. After about a block, I called Siobhan. Help! I can’t feel my feet! I need a ride! Maybe even to the emergency room!   She was there in a flash – “be right back” sign slapped to the door, Mini zipping around the corner ready for rescue. But – after a quick assessment of feet and mental state – she wasn’t up for sacrificing check-in time for an ER visit.  Oh well – it’s not like I love to hang out in ERs, certainly not on a Saturday night. A shower and a few talks with guests turned out to be the only treatment I needed.

But the point is: that’s how I ended up wearing Wigwam wool socks for two hours after a long hot shower, on a warm summer evening. With shorts.

2) For our last overnight getaway last season, in the middle of October, we contemplated Monhegan Island (but the Island Inn had only rooms with shared bathrooms left), Moosehead Lake (but moose safaris had just ended because the hunting season was beginning), and the Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, an old favorite. The Colony has a huge heated (not just heated, almost hot!) saltwater outdoor pool, which is open as long as the Colony is, come hell or high water, snow or low temps. On the 19th of October, it was 40 something degrees, grey, and a bit foggy, and for some now unremembered reason we didn’t get to the hotel until late afternoon. So by the time I made it to the pool, it was dusk. I had to plan carefully to minimize cold exposure, so on the way from our room to the pool I wore sweatpants, T-shirt, and hoodie over my bathing suit, plus the long fluffy winter bathrobe I’d packed for the trip. Steam was coming off the surface of the water; barely visible within it was one other woman, a fellow end of season swimmer I met again the next morning. I chose a chair very close to the shallow end of the pool – force of habit; there was really neither a need nor a desire to enter the water slowly and gradually.   Aah, what a contrast to my other swims this season! I never swam in water twice as warm as the air. There is nothing like that combo to guarantee a good long workout –  a bit like a hot shower during a power outage (in the kind of house where you still have hot water, but not enough heat): you wanna stay in there for as long as you can.

October dusk swim at the Colony Hotel

Dusk swim at the Colony Hotel

colony swim october

Morning swim, Colony hotel

  –          Eventually, of course, you probably have to go to the bathroom, or remember you have a dinner date, or wherever you’re swimming is closing for the day. You make a cold-and-wet-minimization plan, and put it into action as quickly and efficiently as possible. In my case, that involved 1) stand on towel, put on slippers 2) towel off, put on robe, 3) dash inside to the pool bar bathroom to change –  all in fifteen seconds.   –          And then, after putting my sweats, thermals, and hoodie back on – here they came again, packed as a special post-swim treat: the Wigwams. What more could I need? Well, maybe a stop by the fire up in the lounge, where Siobhan was waiting with a warm-up drink, followed by a hot shower and a nice take-out dinner –  in pajamas and Wigwams, of course. There’s no better way to say good bye to the swim season and hello to the colder half of the year….

P.S. I wish I could say I participated in the Lincolnville Polar Bear plunge, after which I would most certainly have needed a double portion of Wigwams. But even if I had been in town to do so, I probably wouldn’t have lived to tell about it. If you know anyone that did, ask them what they – and their feet – wore for days and nights afterwards.

Swimming Midcoast Maine, Part 3: Laite Memorial Beach, Camden

By Katja

Welcome to Laite Memorial Beach

We had started falling in love with Laite Memorial Beach just weeks before we moved here – when we came to Camden to get a few days of training from the previous TM owners, Rick and Jane. During an afternoon break one day, we went for a walk up Bay View Street and discovered that we’d have a beach in walking distance of our inn and home! A very scenic beach, too, where we could watch the schooners sail in and out of the harbor and look up to the top of Mt. Battie, plus have a picnic on the grass or the pebble and sand beach – and, of course, where we could swim! We weren’t complete strangers to the cold Penobscot Bay waters even during the height of summer; we’d swum a few times (including once in October!) at the beach at the High Tide Inn (and have the pictures to prove it). So we knew Laite Beach would be just as cold, but, we thought, on a hot day it would be refreshing, and even on a not so hot day, it would always feel good to at least wade in the water, watch the ducks, and luxuriate in the amazingly fresh colors of the blue bay, white boats, and green hills beyond.


Less than a month later, the first few days of our new innkeeping life had passed, and the weather was a nice Indian summer 65-70 degrees. We were still in the process of figuring out a lot of things about our daily schedules (like – can one of us ever leave for an hour??), and I hadn’t been taking enough care of my outdoor and swimming needs. Well, that day – I think it was the day after Rick and Jane left, leaving us to our still rather ignorant devices –  I realized I really just had to go swimming. Maybe the timing was metaphorical (Rick and Jane had thrown us in deep water and there was no choice but to swim), or maybe I was just desperate and knew it might be my last chance for the season. Either way, there was no way I would NOT swim that day. We had Aini help us with early check-ins and phone calls that day, so around mid day, I packed my bag and walked over to the beach. Almost no one else was there – it was a week day in October, after all – and certainly no one was crazy enough to be in the water.  Except me – but compared to the crazed first week we’d just had, this didn’t feel crazy at all.

No crazier, really, than swimming here feels in July. The best water temps are probably in August or early September, when the bay has had a few months to try to warm up. (“Try” = it never quite succeeds). But if you try to swim about once a week, you notice how hard the bay keeps trying to get warm. Once both you and the water have tried hard enough, you can get about a 10 minute swim together. And when the sun helps out, the cold river currents marbling through that bay (yup, even colder than the regular 60 degrees) won’t be such a shock – you might even call them refreshing.(I’d recommend a hot humid day in August, perhaps after a run, to get that feeling).

Laite Beach, a cloudy day in June It may be tempting to try Laite Beach in June. It looks much like a beach in more summery climates then – with people playing, tanning, looking for rocks, and having a picnic. But you’ll probably wonder why they don’t seem to spend much time in the water: do Mainers not swim much, perhaps, living in such a wintery state? Do they not know how to swim? Or does the water harbor dangerous creatures which only the locals know about? Well, you will probably get your answer by actually going for a swim.

Laite Beach in June, with Mom Like I did towards the end of June, on a beautiful warm afternoon. I packed a big bag of beach stuff, including a change of bathing suits, spread out a brightly colored beach towel on a sunny patch of sand, and settled down. I didn’t even last long – the sun, prior swim deprivation, and almost-heat ( I have yet to see anything resembling real heat in Maine) sent me off into the water, eager for refreshment.

Instant refreshment indeed. Let me rephrase that: COLD is the better word for it. So cold, indeed, that my feet ended up having a strange new experience – they remained numb and tingly, just off somehow (as if drunk or on drugs) for hours afterwards. For the details of this story, read my next post, “Swimming in Maine – better bring your Wigwams!” Suffice it to say that wool socks had to be summoned to get my feet back to normal that day.

We did have quite a few nice swims and peaceful Happy Hours at Laite beach in July and August. And we weren’t the only ones in the water, nor the only adults. We tend to swim out a bit farther than others, close to the boats, and one night we had a talk with regular guests of ours who are building a house close to the water. When we mentioned our beach visit that afternoon, they said, “oh, we were wondering who these crazy swimmers were, out by the boats!” From then on, we waved at the house whenever we swam by.

High Tide in July We recommend the beach to whomever among our guests seem serious about ocean water swimming. I remember one family who went several times, and they all swam. We know because they had the constantly wet hair and beach towels over our balcony to prove it. (Towne Motel doesn’t usually have that beach hotel look). We recommended lakes for leisurely warm water swimming, but they stuck to Laite Beach, which I bet they now remember as their favorite place in Camden. They were from Denmark.

Other than for Danes (and maybe Great Danes?), Laite Beach is great for anyone not looking for a place to swim for exercise, unless they’re seals or extreme wet suit swimmers. But hey, now the news is that climate change is making the coastal Maine waters too warm for cod to stay, and maybe, eventually, even for lobster. Does that mean that some day people will come to Maine primarily for beach and swim vacations?? If so – and if we’re still alive and with it by then, we’ll look back longingly to the days when the water was pristine and clear and amazingly blue – so what if it was too cold to swim. When it comes to reasons not to swim, too cold is still better than too crowded– especially if the cold comes with lobster, and the warmer temps without. We can’t have a Maine without lobster!

Swimming Midcoast Maine, Part 2: Maces Pond

Maces pond octoberDuring a late June trip to a plant store in Rockport, we drove by a lake we never paid a lot of attention to, even though we’d seen it many times. We certainly didn’t know its name – most locals don’t seem to -, not until looking at a Google map the next day. But we still don’t know where the name came from – Maces Pond seems like an odd one, and not very memorable. But no matter – swimming in it was memorable enough to write about.

It was a sunny, almost hot day, so we took a more careful look as we drove by the lake, and discovered a small parking area by the road. We pulled over. There was a short path to the lake, where we saw – well, not a beach exactly, but definitely easy access to the water. It seemed like others had been there to swim, or maybe launch a kayak or row boat or whatever other means of water transportation floats their boat, so to speak. Looking out at the calm blue water – no one was in it –, it was hard not to jump in right then and there. But we had a lot of flowers to buy, and if we didn’t buy them first, would we buy them at all? We hadn’t brought bathing suits, and walking past rows of flower containers in dripping, post-swim clothes would probably make a strange impression, unless our purpose was to water them. So we went the delayed satisfaction route and got ourselves back in the car and down the road a bit, to our destination –The Green Thumb. (No – I’m not implying we don’t like to shop for plants. Only that on a hot day, we like water even more than flowers).

The prospect of a swim was a good way to keep our flower spending under control – and to come to a relatively quick decision (in a place with that many choices, it’s never easy to decide). The sun was still out and the lake still there when we got back, just as undisturbed and inviting and empty of signs of human life as it had been before.

In we went (yes, without bathing suits, but no, not without clothes).   Maces Pond 2

Aaaah, the luxury – as Siobhan likes to say. Perfect temp, no bugs or algae or leeches or clingy plants, just clear and refreshing but warm enough water to swim, no one but the two of us, surrounded by blue and green.

Aaaah the luxury! Ok, I said that already. But it bears repeating. We swam over to the other side of the lake. We would’ve made it, had it not become weedier close to the other shore, which made us wonder what else we might find in the vegetation. Leeches? Loch monsters? People tell us all kinds of stories about lake swimming in Maine. So we swam back, and sideways, and in circles, or not at all. We swam, we floated; we sunned, drifted, water jogged, and luxuriated. The thought hit us once or twice that someone could see our stuff and steal our keys and drive off with our cargo load of daisies and petunias — but it passed. Relax – we’re in Maine! Listen to the calm.

And then we drove back, convertible top down, the back seat brimming with flowers, clothes almost dry by the time we got home. We arrived before check-in time, ready for whatever else the day would bring. Because after you’ve had a good swim, you can handle almost any chaos that comes your way  – including almost anything a motel with 17 rooms and potentially 34+ guests might have in store for you.

In the process of researching Maces Pond, I came across a fun website, called lakesofmaine.org. No photos, but it does have a map and some stats of Maces Pond.  And while you’re finding out more about the many Maine lakes, check out Wikipedia’s “List of Lakes in Maine.” You’ll learn that Maine has “at least 2,677 lakes or ponds” without a name  – and that doesn’t include two whose names start with “Unnamed!” In the lakesofmaine list, there is a Berrypatch Pond, which is also called Unnamed Pond, and an Upper Unknown Lake, Lower Unknown Lake, and Middle Unknown Lake (a group of lakes in Hancock County). And a search for “unknown ponds” yields three additional results.  So it seems that Maces Pond, while not the most well-known body of water in Maine, has been deemed important by someone – important enough to have a name anyway…

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