Archive for September 19th, 2014

Nice People

Yesterday should have been a terrible day.

Our car was making a weird vibrating noise, and I knew I’d have to take it to a mechanic.  My tooth had been hurting me, and I was pretty sure it was going to have to be extracted.  I made an appointment for the dentist, who is located 90 minutes away in Scarborough, Maine (yes, there are closer dentists, but I have terrible teeth and he came highly recommended; I’ve been happy with him so far).  I decided that rather than go to the nearest Subaru dealer to my house, 45 minutes away, I would go to the Subaru dealer in Saco, which is closer to the dentist in Scarborough, and kill two birds with one stone.  When I called the Subaru dealer, I told them that I would need some sort of loaner car because I had a dentist appointment 8 miles away.

“I’m so sorry,” the Subaru technician replied, “but all of our loaners are out.  But it’s no problem – – we will take you to your dentist appointment with our shuttle driver; just call us when you’re ready to be picked up.”   The shuttle driver was so nice.  We spoke about those things we had in common: the secrets for a good marriage (the driver recently celebrated his 42nd anniversary), grandchildren, our dogs (both rescues), and fishing (what else do you talk about this time of year?).

Meanwhile, at the dentist, the news was not good.  “Yep, it needs to be extracted,” my dentisit said, “but you will need to go to an oral surgeon for that.  But I knew you were coming from very far away, so just in case, I called them this morning to see if they could fit you in today, and I made you an appointment for 2 o’clock.”   I called the shuttle driver and he brought me back to the Subaru dealer.  My car was in very bad shape:  it needed 2 new axles, CV boots, and struts.  Because we commute 600 miles each way between Maine and our home town on a frequent basis, we need our car to be in tip-top condition, so I authorized the repair. . . sigh. . .  our tax refund just went out the window.

They still did not have a loaner available.  “No problem,” said the shuttle driver.  “I will take you wherever you need to go.”  I explained that the oral surgeon’s office was located in South Portland, about 15 miles away.  “No worries.  We drive people up to 2 hours away all the time as part of our commitment to good service.  And please make yourself comfortable  while you’re waiting – – we have computers, free wifi, snacks . . . ”

A few minutes later the technician came by.  “I really feel bad that our loaners are still not back.  So I pulled three of our service technicians off of other cars.  They now have four guys working on your car all at once, so instead of being done at 4 p.m. as originally planned, your car will be ready at 1:30.  You should be able to drive your own car and make your appointment in plenty of time.”

I thanked him profusely and in fact the repaired car drove like new.  I told him that in the future, despite the distance, I would return to his dealership for service.  “That’s very nice of you,” he replied, “and we appreciate your loyalty.  So I’m going to knock off 5% from parts and labor from today’s bill.”  It was over $100 savings.

And here’s my point:  in Maine, people are almost universally nice.  It doesn’t matter if you are in a store, on the road, or in a line.  People are incredibly considerate, friendly, polite and helpful.  What should have been a very difficult day was made better simply because people were pleasant, and their positive attitude was contagious.







Fall Harvest

Now that the days are sunny, windy, and nippy, with brilliant blue skies and thick, puffy white clouds; the nights frosty; the leaves changing colors and the bugs long dead and gone (yay!),  everyone you meet seems pretty chipper.   Mainers really make the most of this fleeting, wonderful time before winter approaches.  Mainers love their autumn, and with good reason.  They decorate their homes in homage to Fall with pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds, welcome flags with Fall motifs, and autumn-themed tschotckes from the dollar store — and this is before Halloween when decor gets really elaborate.  The farm stands are awash in color:  gourds and pumpkins, apples and cider, and mums and asters.


Hayrides and corn mazes and pick-your-own apple orchards are everywhere.  Communities have “harvest suppers” in which farms donate their produce to church ladies and Town Halls, and they have meals made of local produce, poultry, and pork that feed hundreds, either free of charge or to raise money for various causes.  Hunters are centering their rifles and shotguns and practically chomping at the bit for deer hunting season to commence.  It is the last hurrah before bad weather and short days set in.

And of course the cider presses are working overtime, squeezing the juice from heirloom cold-hardy apple varieties you’ve likely never heard of:  William’s Pride, Macoun (a common Maine favorite), Beacon, Chestnut Crab, Duchess, Snow, Wealthy, Black Oxford, Fireside, Liberty, Lodi, Milden, Paula Red, Northern Spy, Pristine, Snowsweet, and Wolf River.  Many of the orchards have on-site bakeries where they sell fresh apple cider donuts.  The aroma is intoxicating!

Today I drove past Weston’s Farm in Fryeburg, Maine, where I took all these photos,  and just couldn’t help myself:  I had to buy their appealing selection of pumpkins, squash and gourds.






If you’ve never tried Delicata squash, do anything in your power to find some.  You might never eat any other kind of squash (including butternut squash!) again.

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Delicata is the sweetest and most moist of all squash varieties I’ve tried.


I just had to buy some pumpkins so I could make some fresh pumpkin pie.  (The variety I bought is meant for pies, versus the type that is meant for carving jack-‘o-lanterns.)


Pumpkins that are good for carving (and Halloween)

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making.  The rind is somewhat thinner.

This paler variety of pumpkin is better for pie-making. The rind is somewhat thinner.

There is also ugly blue Hubbard squash which is a old-time favorite in Maine; I hope to try it soon.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.

There were several types of Hubbard-like squash, which is a sickly blue-grey that resembles the color of mould.


When I saw their wicked pink banana squash I got very excited.

Pink Banana Squash

Pink Banana Squash

I had tried it 2 years ago and loved it, but hadn’t been able to find any since.  It’s not hard to see why:  few people want to buy a squash that weighs between 30 – 40 lbs!  The one I chose weighed 29 lbs.  I’m taking it to my hometown this weekend; I figured its size would delight my grandchildren and then I can split up more manageable portions amongst my daughters and daughters-in-law.



1-2-3, Hoist!  It's so big it hides my head

1-2-3, Hoist! It’s so big it hides my head

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this.  But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn't go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.

I knew my husband would roll his eyes when I came home with this. But both of us always love the unusual, and once he was convinced it wouldn’t go to waste he thought it was pretty neat.