Boats and books: Camden, Maine

When I bought the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, I never thought I’d consult it as much as I have over the years. With the internet and all, who needs a guide book?

Me. I have highlighted, dog-ear’d, and re-read so many pages – real-life places – in that book. And I use it as the basis for travel planning.

The section on New England is heavily read, and Maine has so many highlights and underlines, you’d think I’m studying the material for a test.

On my first trip to Maine, I focused on Portland and Freeport. In June, I read even more pages in my Maine section and crossed them off my list. Camden, Maine was one of the sections my book listed. And the town did not disappoint.

My handy bucket list travel book told me to go on a schooner or windjammer. And I listened. I booked a day trip sail ride on the Schooner Surprise – a 99 year old Schooner in beautiful condition. Trip Advisor had many great options. So why did I choose the Surprise? The owner’s bios. Apparently the wife fell in love with sailing when she attended summer camp in, wait for it – MINNESOTA! I mean, come on.

I could write forever and ever about the cute shops, including Stonewall Kitchen – get a jar of Wild Maine Blueberry Jam! and Sea Bags. Sea Bags is to Mainers what Duluth Pack is to Minnesotans or Barrington Gifts is to Texans (I’ll talk about LL Bean totes later!). Quintessential maritime handbags and accessories. They even had a line made out of windsurf sails (Wind surfing is my replacement for slalom waterskiing. It’s exhilarating and exhausting)!

I could talk forever about the book lover’s Dream library and book store. Seriously, I went to the Camden library and fell head over heels in LOVE with the architecture and ambiance! I could talk about the great art gallery and the gentleman who owned it and how personable he was and his ties to Minnesota. I could also talk a long time about the Camden Deli. Hello, best deli sandwich, Cape Cod Chips (I know Minnesota is Old Dutch country but I prefer Cape Cod–and the East Coast), and to-die-for desserts. I could talk about all of that for days.

But the main event was the sail boat ride. It’s not ADA accessible, but it is easy enough for kiddos to get down onto the dock. The boat is not big enough for a dog (the couple across from us had a dog and it was very annoying. Can you tell I’m not a dog person?).

My dad and I sat on a bench near the stern of the boat, right next to the captain. Our captain was fantastic. He maneuvered us through the heavy fog, past the Curtis Island Light House and these adorable (albeit very large) coastal homes. One of the houses has a dining room table that seats 100 people. I don’t even have 100 friends. I would literally need 75 teddy bears and dolls to sit around the table like a giant tea party just to fill all the chairs. Clearly, a few houses were incredibly ostentatious, but others were simple, classic homes.

The captain had extensive knowledge of the area, it’s history and fun facts. He talked about the Penobscot Bay and told stories that everyone enjoyed. We saw lighthouses and some wild life, and he kindly answered the 1-50 questions my dad asked him (and was impressed with my dad’s sailing/boat knowledge). Since we sat near the stern, we didn’t have to duck or move when we were tacking (it was a light sailing day – the wind was almost nonexistent so the captain used the 125 diesel for most of our ride).

The first mate was 12 or 20, I’m a terrible judge of men’s ages. And he was Zac Efron’s doppelg√§nger circa High School Musical 2. I was just waiting for him to break into “What Time Is It?” He didn’t. That was disappointing.
We ate dinner at Sea Dog Brewing Company. We braved the cool temps and sat on the patio overlooking the parking lot and docks. A wedding took place on the Schooner Surprise so we saw the bridal party before and after the “I do’s”. Perfect views as I ate fried clams! Yum-o!

Had the weather been sunny and clear, I would have loved another hike, and have read that Mount Battie has great views! There’s a road side stop on Route 1 called Mount Battie Take Out. It’s on my list for my next trip. The drive from Bangor to Camden is windy and backroad-ish. We had “daylight” for our drive there and back, otherwise it would have been a dark ride.

So for another true Maine adventure, you must go to Camden!

Acadia and Bar Harbor: Maine day trips

Hiking is not an activity I list on my online dating profiles (if I had one), but I do own a great pair of Merrill hiking shoes and put them to good use at Acadia National Park.
Before my trip, I did a Baxter State Park versus Acadia National Park Google and decided ANP was best for me and my dad.

1. Easy trails

2. Lakes

3. Ocean

4. History

We woke early, stopped at a Hannaford Market for snacks and then hit the road for the hour (+) drive to ANP.

Our first stop was Hulls Cove Visitor Center – we paid the $25 vehicle fee (the pass is good for 7 days), used the restroom, and grabbed a map. Our main stop was Jordan Pond. It’s the clearest lake in Maine. No lie. It’s gorgeous!

There’s a typical New England style house near the pond (The Jordan House), that was built in the 1880s! The original house burned down but the rebuilt house is now a rest stop and restaurant (I didn’t eat there but it is the only food option inthe park).

There’s a beautiful 1 mile-ish trail around Jordan Pond for Insta pics! There’s a couple points where the trail is literally a plank-board walk. If you run into people heading the opposite direction of you, it requires a little dance around or someone has to jump off the path to let you pass. Kids were running along the path, so it’s definitely easy and do able. Arrive early because the Jordan Pond House and trail are jam packed with people! We got to the Pond around 9:30 am and headed out on some of the Carriage Roads. Now, I’m not sure if I chose the best path (cue Robert Frost quotes).

We definitely walked on some private roads…but we were not prosecuted for our actions and turned around when we realized what we’d done. We did get to a look out point and saw some great views of Northeast Harbor. The woods and trails were beautiful and paved so perfectly.

John D Rockefeller built these beautiful Carriage Roads with covered bridges and all. They are a sight to see and you’ll definitely want to put them on your list!

The other big stop was Cadillac Mountain. Now, I had planned to do Cadillac Mountain at sunrise. If you know me at all, you know I’m not a morning person. So, waking up at 2 am to drive to Cadillac Mountain was a lofty goal. As luck would have it, it was forecasted to rain. I set the alarm for 6 am instead of 2 am and I’m so glad I did. I still loved the views on Cadillac Mountain – you can see out to Bar Harbor and out over other lakes in the park. It was reminiscent of my hike in Norway! Unfortunately it was still slightly foggy/overcast but I did manage to get some awkward pics of myself standing on Cadillac Mountain.

There’s a small gift shop at Cadillac Mountain with cute Maine made products and park posters and tees. Plus there’s a restroom and bottled water and beverages for purchase. 

The natural thing to do after Acadia National Park is to stop in the town of Bar Harbor. It’s a seaport town and full of quaint New England feels. 

There’s a ton of small inns that look like something out of a movie. When it’s low tide, you can walk out on the bar! 

Pick a shop, any shop, and Bar Harbor’s got it. I definitely made a few purchases and saw a few other Christmas list items! One of my favorite shops was the Bar Harbor Tea Company. Please note, I don’t drink a lot of tea. But for some reason I kept seeing tea – tea saucers, loose leaf tea, tea towels, and tea spoons. And I just couldn’t resist. I bought a build-your-own set of single serve loose leaf Bar Harbor teas! Including their Downeast Breakfast blend, and am planning to gift them to friends! 

A fun, teen-kid friendly store is Cool As A Moose (I’m not a kid or a teen–just observing the vibe!). The store has cute tees and sweatshirts – they carry Life Is Good brand, Portland, ME based Sea Bags, and Cool As A Moose items. Oh and maybe some Hatley, too (every store carries Hatley!). I almost bought a Vineyard Vines-Ish long sleeve tee but found another one I liked a little bit better. The guys selection was maybe my favorite. They had Acadia National Park tees and long sleeve hoodie tees that looked very Patagonia like!

We ate dinner at Side Street Cafe, which is literally on a side street. I had fish tacos and they were delish. The place was packed. Very noisy, family friendly place. Traditional lobster dinner was on the menu, as well as creative dishes for all tastes!

Bar Harbor has no shortage on ice cream. There’s a cute candy/ice cream shop on every corner! Old fashioned general stores and ice cream parlours with ice cream, candy, fudge, whoopie pies and other treats! I grabbed a yummy sea salt caramel ice cream cup (gigantic portion) at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium – ice cream heaven. 

Bar Harbor is a great family-friendly stop! It was packed the day we were there – a cruise ship was in port and a few tour buses were also there. And I’m pretty sure I only saw 1/3 of the shops and town! It’s definitely worth another stop after another Acadia National Park day!

MN in ME

Kennebunkport has been on my bucket list since the last time I visited Maine. On that trip, we drove into Kennebunkport but didn’t have time to do anything. Seriously. We just turned the car around.

This time I made sure to schedule a day in Kennebunkport. It did not disappoint.

I stayed in Portland, ME and the drive to Kennebunkport is about 45 minutes on Route 1 (I avoided tolls – Minnesota driver here). Before I left Portland, I stopped at The Holy Donut in Scarborough. I’m not a super chocolate fan but ordered the dark choc with sea salt. So yum. So soft. Don’t bother with Dunkin Donuts (I can get Dunkin anytime in Minne).

Kennebunkport is THE Quintessential New England beach town. You can practically feel the sea salt (and charm) cling to your hair as you walk along the beach on Beach Road. Quite a hike from Kennebunkport, folks. Pack the walking shoes and sunscreen (do as I say, not as I do). Every Fitbit step is worth it for the views of the Atlantic, and the houses are beyond (for multi-million dollar beach houses on the Atlantic Ocean, they aren’t as pretentious as Lake Minnetonka houses. Yes, I said it). You can rent bikes and bike along the ocean. I did not do that because I would need to rent a child size bike (short legs). (You can also rent kayaks and go out on the river).

The shops and restaurants in Kennebunkport are like Nisswa (for you Minnesotans) on steroids. Each storefront building is unique and looks like you’re walking down an old fashioned Main Street. Charm. Charm. Charm. Daytrip Society is a must stop. Just go in every store.

Food wise, you’d be an idiot not to eat at The Clam Shack. Order the lobster roll with butter and a small side of fries. It’ll set you back $19.95 for the lobster roll alone, but for the lobster roll that will ruin you for all other lobster rolls, it’s not even an option to complain about the price. There’s also the most adorable lemonade stand next to The Clam Shack’s patio. I ordered a fresh squeezed lemonade after my long walk on the beach. The freshest, lemoniest, juiciest, sweetest lemonade in the history of lemonades. Don’t forget to tip the kid making the lemonade.

It’s tourist crazy on summer days, so arrive early. There’s a free parking lot just before you get to Kennebunkport — park there! Pedestrians rule the town, so it’s a super safe cross walk situation. The only people who ride mopeds are the local high school/college kids. The high school version of you will be jealous of the girls and crush on the boys as they zoom around Kennebunkport like they’re on a WB show.

If you drive out along Ocean Avenue (Yellowcard, anyone?), there’s some great views of the ocean – duh. You can kinda pull your car over and snap some pics.

Go on a solo trip. Take your fam bam. If your kids whine about walking or can’t sit in a stroller or hate shopping, leave them with Grandma!

Kennebunkport is a definite must stop on your Maine trip!

{Don’t bother going to Old Orchard Beach. It smells like the State Fair and everything is commercialized and blah. Just stick with Kennebunkport — views, shops, food, beaches.}

MN’s travel tips for solo travelers:

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan. I mainly used social media and TripAdviser to plan my trip to Maine. Yes, I had visited before, but I stalked all of the Maine Instagram accounts and determined where I wanted to eat, shop, and stop. 
  2. Rent a car. There’s a lot of open space in Maine and you will need wheels to get around. Make sure you’re comfortable with the car – size and drive. Turn on a local radio station and blast your favorite tunes. 
  3. Wake up early and get going! Driving will take time and you don’t want to arrive when all of the other tourists arrive! Early bird gets the worm. 
  4. Be spontaneous. Yes, I said to plan plan plan. But after you do that, be prepared to throw the plans out the window so you’re not freaked out about being here or there at specific times. 
  5. Buy food. Sometimes it feels awkward eating alone. But don’t. 
  6. Talk to strangers. Be willing to talk to other tourists and locals. You may just meet a new friend!

The love of an aunt

No one loves you like I do.

No. No one ever will.


That’s how I feel. That’s how my entire family feels. This week. Right now.

Because our dear, amazing aunt is no longer here to hug us super tight (she squeezed extra hard) and tell us how much she loves us.

Let’s be honest. She loved everyone (although I can name a couple dozen hockey players she probably didn’t always feel love toward..and she hated snakes). But other than that, she loved anyone. First and foremost, she loved Him. And from that love, she loved her husband, kids, daughter’s and son’s in law, and her sweet grandchildren with her entire heart. And then came everyone else. No matter who you were, my aunt loved you. Wholly, deeply, unconditionally, unequivocally.

Every day, she lived life to the fullest. Embraced the good with the bad. From life’s small moments to its greatest blessings, she was always grateful, thankful, graceful.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but believe me, it’s all true. Every word we speak about Aunt Jill, it’s truer than true.

She was the person in our family, in our worlds, who could break through any of life’s struggles and encourage you in words and prayer. The way she loved was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Always genuine. Always gracious.

Aunt Jill was a blend of Annie Oakley and Betty Crocker.She did. it. all. One minute she was huntin’, fishin’ and the next she was cookin’ and bakin’ – and lovin’ everyday.

Her time on the lake with my uncle (and her kids and grandkids) was something she looked forward to every summer. She loved reeling in fish – Crappies, Walleye, and even Northern (and no one can pronounce those words like Jill could). And a good fish fry was guaranteed. She made killer Eggs McJill, amazing homemade jam from raspberries grown in her garden, and blueberry pie that even the Amish can’t touch, and breakfast scones that put Starbucks to shame.

Just when you think she couldn’t be any more amazing, she also devoted years to playing piano at church every Sunday morning while my uncle led worship. She taught Sunday School and Wednesday night Awana, and led Apples of Gold and numerous Bible Studies.

Then there was the time she spent knitting beautiful sweaters for her grandkids, or mittens for her daughters and nieces.

She’d feed deer in her front yard and shoot squirrels in her back yard (because they were “dirty rats!”). She played Sequence like a cheater – always table talking and dropping hints – “We gots trouble!” or my favorite, this odd onomatopoeia “deet dee dee” (which isn’t actually a natural sound…but it sounded natural coming from her) to signal you during the game. Needless to say, we never played poker.

Her dialect alone sent us into fits of laughter and her animated tales never disappointed.

She’d pop popcorn right after a big dinner and turn on a hockey game so she could yell “hustle, hustle” or “What in the world is he doing!?” She loved watching women’s volleyball with my uncle and knew player’s stats! And it drove her nuts when my uncle flipped through channels to see what else was on. But, oh how she loved laughing when my uncle watched “Home Alone” at Christmas (it’s a beaut).

Truly, Aunt Jill was one in a billion. And she always made you feel like one in a billion, too. No matter what, Jill always believed, always trusted. She shone with so much light that she always wanted to share with others. And she had Hope for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the literal tomorrow, will be hard. To see family, and to realize that we’re missing her and always will be. But, about a week before she went into the hospital, at the end of September, Aunt Jill sent me a hand written note (in response to my hand written note that I can’t even talk about without bawling). Oh, how I will cherish her words. Her heart poured out to me. A clear reminder of her love for me and promise that she will always believe in His promises for me.

So, that’s how I’ll face this – carrying Jill’s love for me and Hope for tomorrow.

I love you, Aunt Jill.


Watching others experience joy was one of Aunt Jill’s greatest joys. This is how she loved.