Sunday, January 29, 2012

Christmas in New England - Whoopie Pies and Candlepin Bowling

December 22
A spectacularly gorgeous day in Maine!

We woke up at 10:30 a.m. Granted, that's only seven hours after going to sleep, but still! It's so quiet and peaceful here. When we walked the 15 minutes or so to Mel's mom's beautiful home, there were only seven cars that drove past us on this two-lane highway.

After a breakfast of toast and homemade blackberry jam, we made Whoopie Pies (which, as I mentioned in my last post, are the official dessert food of Maine). They are large chocolate “cookies” of dense, cake-like consistency, sandwiched with (in this case) your choice of a boiled, white frosting or a buttercream frosting. A big, delicious, creamy blob of the frosting is placed on one cookie, then another cookie is placed on top and pressed down just enough to look like a ice cream sandwich. When you take a bite, the frosting squishes out all over your fingers, which you are then forced to lick clean. You wouldn't want to waste all that decadent goodness on a napkin!

These Whoopie Pies bear no resemblance to the miniature, dried-out variety you might have seen at a coffee chain during the Holidays. Those are not Whoopie Pies. They are Whoopie Cookies, and small ones, at that. Although the tiny imitations taste pretty good, don't let the fact that they look like the real thing (only smaller) fool you. There is no comparison. None.

Sue measures out her batter onto the cookie sheet with precision, using a small ice cream scoop. They are exactly uniform in size, and they are baked to absolute perfection. You don't want to take chances with the size of your Whoopie Pies, and this method deposits just enough batter for the best size and thickness. Sue could win contests with her Whoopie Pies. I'm sure of it.

Naturally, we all had to try “one of each” in order to compare fillings. I had to agree with Sue. I thought the boiled frosting was best. Zack and Mel liked the buttercream better. And Harry couldn't decide. And I didn't take a Whoopie Pie picture. Can you believe it?
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.

A walk in the woods.
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
Since it was such a lovely day, we decided to burn off some of the calories we'd just consumed by walking through the woods along the snowmobile trail to the lake. There was no snow, or we would have been on snowmobiles. The fallen leaves formed a thick carpet on the ground, and little pine saplings peeked through everywhere. We passed a babbling brook lined with a thin, delicate layer of ice and arrived at the placid lake in a matter of minutes. Well, it seemed like a matter of minutes, but I didn't notice how long it actually took. It was immensely enjoyable and calm and quiet and peaceful. The temperature was in the low 30's, but it seemed warmer.

Dudley with the people he's walking.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
Dudley, the Goldendoodle with more energy than five toddlers, went with us on our walk. Sue's pooch is an entertaining, friendly, sweet dog. But, apparently, not too bright. He's awfully endearing, though, and you can't have everything. Dudley's eyes are striking in their gaze – clear, innocent, enthusiastic, openly inquisitive, not quite comprehending. He seems eager, but puzzled. And he's a beautiful animal. He and Harry are fast friends already. You'd have fallen for him, too.

Snark, staying warm.
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
Sue's other dog, a Pug, is nicknamed “Snark.” That'll be because of the sounds she makes. Cute, no? Snark is older and rules the roost. She takes whatever Dudley dishes out to a point, and then she asserts herself. And, whatever you do, do not get between her and the pellet stove. She curls up there in her doggie bed, soaking up the blessed warmth, keeping watch to make sure things don't get out of control.

We returned to the house, where Jim had prepared dinner for us. What a guy! He'd cooked teriyaki chicken in the crock pot, and that was served over basmati rice with a side dish of buttered broccoli. Jim makes delicious pickles, and we enjoyed his dills and mustards with our dinner. Lots of puckery goodness!

Lucky Lanes. Give them a try!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
After dinner, we went to Paris by way of Norway, from Oxford. Maine is such a great place! You can travel all over Europe without leaving the state! We had decided that candlepin bowling would be an excellent way to spend the rest of the evening.

See? Those are far away. Come on.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
For the uninitiated, candlepin bowling is played mainly in the Maritimes and in New England. The pins are tall and skinny and cylindrical, and the ball is small, weighing about a pound. You would think it would be easier than “regular” bowling, since the ball you're hoisting doesn't dislocate your shoulder or pull your elbow out of joint, but it's actually pretty difficult. Especially for me. I am probably the worst bowler ever ridiculed, so you can imagine how good I was at heaving this ball all the way down the much-too-long lane, trying to knock down one (Please! Just one!) pin. But my second game was a slight improvement over my first one, and so I considered the evening's entertainment to have been a great success. And...I had a blast. If you are traveling through New England (or the Maritimes), do give it a try. I promise you will have fun, even if it's just yourself or the others. To find out more about candlepin bowling, visit

There was a 12- or 13-year-old young man there who was playing in the next lane over from ours. He was just practicing, improving his game. And he was making mincemeat of us, in that he “only” gets to bowl on weekends, and maybe on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Only?! Anyway, Ian is a very friendly, un-shy guy. He added to our enjoyment by showing off, giving us helpful tips, and critiquing our technique. Thanks, Ian! I'm sure you'll be a pro someday.

Tomorrow, it looks as though L. L. Bean might be on the agenda, and we're meeting Melissa's father and her uncle, Barry, whose band has a once-a-year-reunion-party nearby. We've been invited to a gig, and I'm looking forward to it.

Thompson Lake
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I hope the weather will be lovely again. There was no fog today, and no ice on the road. I am loving Maine!

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