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MP recently met with Leah Deragon, the director of Birth Roots—a Portland-based program designed to assist parents before and after their child’s birth. Leah and her team offer supportive classes, facilitated discussion, and more valuable resources to moms and dads in their cozy space on State Street.

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Leah and a staffer discuss plans for the day.

Birth Roots is designed to be all-inclusive, meaning no matter the parenting style, everyone is welcome to participate in peer discussions. “There is a diversity of parenting philosophies,” Leah says, “and facilitated discussion helps moms and dads find what’s right for their own unique parenting experience.”

Most parents attend Birth Roots to prepare for the birth of their child. According to Leah, many come in having expectations of what their birth experience will be like, only to realize the end result can be wildly different. Sharing ideas about their expectations, and taking prenatal classes, can help put it all in perspective.

"The deeper the roots, the higher the reach."

“The deeper the roots, the higher the reach.”

And post-birth, most of us are surprised by all of the changes a new baby brings. The forum at Birth Roots creates a comfortable environment where new moms or dads can discuss anything that is on their minds. Leah calls it Community Supported Parenting®. She says young parents from Sanford, Portland, Brownfield, and Damariscotta come regularly to help each other through the early months of parenting.

Helpful books and journals for new parents.

Helpful books and journals for new parents.

Birth Roots also provides parents with the opportunity to connect with a doula, a person who works with families before, during, and after birth. And for those in need of financial support, Leah says Birth Roots can connect newly trained doulas with families (a new doula is required to do 3 free births after training).

Of course, a great non-profit like Birth Roots needs public support. In September, Leah and her team host one of our favorite family events—Sandsations—a sand-sculpting contest at Pine Point Beach in Scarborough that’s designed to raise money for the program. To help, you can form your own team and fundraise or take part in the People’s Choice award, which costs just $1 per vote.

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A sand sculpture from the 2011 Sandsations event.

The event is free and features a fun kids craft tent, a kid-powered Mermaid Bridgade, and yoga on the beach. This year, Crusher—the mascot from the Maine Red Claws—will also be there.

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CP#1 with a crown she made in the kids crafting tent.

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Two sweet girls join in the Mermaid Brigade.

Sandsations takes place on September 6, 2014 from noon-3 p.m. Trust us, this is a wonderful event you and your family will return to year after year!

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For more on Birth Roots, visit here. And to sign up or learn more about Sandsations, check out this site.

Birth Roots
101 State Street
Portland, Maine
772-4784

Last summer, MP purchased a Krups Ice Cream Maker for the kids. Our family loves ice cream and the idea of making it at home together made La Glaciere worth the splurge. We’ve experimented with different variations of vanilla, adding fresh strawberries or mint dark chocolate pieces. It wasn’t until we came across this simple recipe for Lemon Sherbet in Yankee Magazine that we were inspired to try a new frozen treat.

Store-bought sherbet is usually a frozen mixture of sweetened fruit juice and water, but this recipe takes sherbet to another level with the addition of farm fresh heavy cream. You’ll need:

  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream

If you have an ice cream maker, freeze the base for at least a day before in your freezer. We try to keep our base in the freezer all the time, so it’s ready whenever the mood to make ice cream strikes!

For those without an ice cream maker, you can still make this recipe following the same steps.*

First, slice the lemons in half and juice them.

IMG_2258 IMG_2265Pour the lemon juice into a medium bowl and add sugar. Using a wire whisk, mix the lemon and sugar together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Next, add the milk and whisk until sugar is fully dissolved.

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Pour the cream into a separate bowl, and whip the cream until it forms medium peaks (we used a Kitchen Aid mixer for ease). Gently fold the cream into the lemon mixture and transfer to an ice cream maker. Let the ice cream maker run for 20-30 minutes until the mixture thickens. *Note: If you don’t have an ice cream maker, store the mixture in an airtight, freezer-safe container for two hours.
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The finished product is smooth, delicious, and wonderfully creamy. We doled out spoons and ate the sherbet straight out of our ice cream maker. This is decadent summer treat we’ll definitely be making again.
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 Yields 1 quart or 8 servings.

Bresca was MP’s favorite restaurant in Portland—the creative menu, the wine selection, Krista Desjarlais’ incredible desserts, and the cozy bistro atmosphere made it MP and DP’s go to place for an adult night out.

When Desjarlais decided to close Bresca in May 2013, MP’s disappointment was buoyed when she learned the chef had decided to renovate a snack shack at Outlet Beach on Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester. While there would be no more quiet wine dinners at the Portland location, now our whole family could enjoy Desjarlais’ delicious food, and a day at the lake.

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We decided to visit the snack shack, Bresca and the Honey Bee, on Opening Day 2014. Gray skies and thickening clouds didn’t deter us. Unfortunately when we arrived, Desjarlais decided to postpone the opening. The young woman working at the window said the staff was testing a few dishes, but only ice cream was available for purchase.

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Despite the threat of rain, we decided ice cream for lunch sounded like a great idea. It was Memorial Day weekend after all – why not splurge? We decided on 3 flavors—root beer, sea salt caramel, and dark chocolate. The ice cream was served in paper cups, and each generous scoop was topped with a pizzelle cookie (a crispy, Italian waffle cookie made from flour, eggs, sugar, and butter).

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At the former Bresca, Desjarlais offered desserts like chocolate soup and MP remembers saying to DP, “I’m equal parts intrigued and concerned. Will it taste like eating Hershey’s syrup?” The rich, dark chocolate soup was served over scoop of vanilla gelato, and ended up being one of the best desserts in recent memory… until MP tried Desjarlais’ ice cream.

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This is an ice cream you’ll be dreaming about long after you leave. Each flavor was creamy, delicious, and not overly sweet. MP is a dark chocolate fan (as evidenced by the aforementioned soup), but she and DP both agreed the root beer was our favorite— mainly because the flavor tasted just like a root beer float in ice cream form. As for CP#2? He scraped his bowl of caramel sea salt ice cream clean.

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Much like the original Bresca, the new location has the same beautiful, personal touches. There are gorgeous potted flowers all around and Sabbathday Lake is stunning, no matter what the weather. We’ve returned again in July with family. We rented big, colorful tubes for the day, and spent time swimming and relaxing. Of course, we all enjoyed more ice cream!

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Photo courtesy Bresca and the Honey Bee

Photo courtesy Bresca and the Honey Bee

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To learn more about this great family beach and snack shack, visit Bresca and the Honey Bee’s web site or find them on Facebook.  Writer Melissa Coleman’s review in the Portland Press Herald highlights the wonderful food (MP is a big fan of the grilled carrot salad and goat cheese).

Bresca and the Honey Bee
106 Outlet Road
New Gloucester, ME
(207) 926-3388

 

MP would travel anywhere in Maine for good bread. This Saturday, the Maine Grain Alliance is hosting its annual bread fair with over 60 food vendors from across New England. Even though Skowhegan is an hour-plus drive, the promise of skilled bakers offering wood-fired pizza, decadent pastries, and crusty baguettes is enough for MP to get the family in the car and go.

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If the promise of delicious breads and pastries weren’t enough, then all of the other fun events are certainly enticing. The talented folks at King Arthur Flour will be on hand to discuss their best baking tips. You’ll also find a children’s area, live music, and all the supplies home bakers love.

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To celebrate the upcoming fair, Maine Grains in Skowhegan is offering a 5 lb. bag of their flour—made from locally grown, stoneground grains—to one lucky Cute Potato reader. All you need to do is tell us: where does your family go for good bread? We’ll choose a winner at random. Contest ends Friday, July 25. 2014 at noon EST. Good luck bakers!

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PS: Check out two of our favorite bakeries: here and here, plus this delicious, thin crust pizza recipe from Maine Grain Alliance presenter and Cook’s Illustrated associate editor, Andrew Janjigian.

Maine Grain Alliance Bread Fair
Saturday, July 26, 2014
9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Skowhegan State Fairgrounds
Admission is free, and parking is $2.00.

FMI on the fair, visit their web site.

 *All photos courtesy of Amber Lambke

Kettle Cove

After two back-to-back travel weekends, our family decided to start a new summer tradition: Saturday morning breakfasts at a local beach. DP packed hard-boiled eggs, coffee, juice, croissants, and homemade strawberry jam. By 9:00 a.m., all of us were in bathing suits and ready to go.

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We decided to visit one of our favorite spots: Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth. If you haven’t been, Kettle Cove is located at the smaller, quieter end of Crescent Beach. The parking lot is small, so getting there early is key. There is a rocky beach where children can explore the tide pools (CP#1 and #2 love to collect hermit crabs) plus an expansive grassy area that overlooks the cove. And what a view!

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We clearly weren’t the only ones who got out early to enjoy the beach. We watched a team of divers gear up and explore the cove. There was also a group learning how to paddle board and a kayaker preparing to set out for a day on the water. Plus lots and lots of families.

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After breakfast, our team decided to explore the other side of the cove which is connected by a wooden footbridge. The trail that leads to this area is lined with beach roses and is shaded by trees. If it weren’t for the promise of another great view, MP could have lingered for awhile.

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We watched the waves crash, climbed rocks (in search of more hermit crabs, of course), collected stones, and walked waist deep into the water to cool off. And then we returned back to our spot for more beach time. CP#1 tended to her hermit crab while MP read her book. DP and CP#2 played soccer on the grass.

The morning was one of those perfect, sunny Saturdays a family dreams about come January. And so, our new tradition—beach breakfasts—will continue as long as summer allows.

Kettle Cove
Kettle Cove Road (off Bowery Beach Rd)
Cape Elizabeth

Also nearby (and worth a visit), Kettle Cove Creamery and Cafe.

 

 

 

Every summer, without fail, our family goes to the New Gloucester Strawberry Festival. We make sure to eat a light dinner, so our bellies can handle the humongous desserts that the volunteers at the festival so lovingly create.

CP#2 waiting in line - does he look excited or what?

CP#2 waiting in line – does he look excited or what?

The line to choose a dessert gets a little longer each year, but oh, the end result is worth the wait! Visitors can choose a “super” that consists of fresh strawberries, whipped cream, Hodgman’s Vanilla Custard, and a homemade biscuit. Or you can opt out on the biscuit and go for a strawberry sundae. If you’re looking for something lighter, fresh strawberries and whipped cream are also on the menu.

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Colored popsicle sticks indicate the dessert of your choice.

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While nothing can fully replicate what the volunteers do here, you can create a similar dessert at home. For the super strawberry shortcake, we recommend trying our favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe. The whipped cream is also easy to make. Purchase a pint of heavy cream from your local farm or market. Pour the cream into a mixing bowl, and if you choose, add a half-teaspoon of vanilla or a teaspoon of sugar, (depending on how sweet you want the cream). Mix with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid® until large peaks form.

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The ladies at the festival told us they mash fresh strawberries in a bowl to make the topping. And for the ice cream or custard? Maine has so many incredible choices. Why not have fun trying a few different options? Or if you have an ice cream maker at home, you could always make your own.

Our short strawberry season is a time to savor. Why not indulge in a delicious dessert?

PS: A few of our favorite Maine ice cream options: herehere and here.

Oh! And we didn’t forget. Thanks to all of you who entered to win tickets to the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston. Your comments were so much fun to read! Congrats to Jennifer Perreault – she is the lucky winner.

Twenty-six-year-old LEGO Master Model Builder, Ian Coffey, was in Portland for the Old Port Festival in early June, sharing his incredible building talents with the masses. MP had the opportunity to chat with Ian, learn how he became a LEGO Master Model Builder, and what it’s like to work at the new LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston.

Ian in Portland during Old Port Fest.

Ian in Portland during Old Port Fest.

MP: When did you first start building with LEGOs?
IC: I started at 3-years old. My older brother played with LEGOs, and I wanted to be just like him. To this day, there’s a very large LEGO city in the basement of my childhood home.

MP: How did you become a LEGO Master Model Builder?
IC: My Dad’s friend saw an ad in the paper for LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Boston, announcing a competition for the chance to become a LEGO Master Model Builder. I didn’t do anything about it then. When a close friend of mine found out, she signed me up anyway. I’m so glad she did!

Ian at the Portland Sea Dogs stadium during Old Port fest.

Ian at the Portland Sea Dogs stadium during Old Port Fest.

MP: What was the competition like?
IC: There were over 100 contestants, and the build-off lasted two days. We could only use certain sizes and shapes for our creations. One of the first challenges was to create a character from a favorite story. I built Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. After that, we had to build something from a favorite vacation. I designed the Olympic ski jump from Lake Placid, New York.

MP: And the final challenge?
IC: We had to create a LEGO scene that meant something to us personally.  I made a “painted picture” of my Chocolate Lab at the park.

MP: What did you do before becoming a LEGO Master Model Builder?
IC:  I worked under the secretary of the New York State Senate for nearly every single senator. My days were very long.

MP: What’s a typical day at the Boston LEGOLAND® Discovery Center like?
IC: I build in my office, which is all glass. I call it my fishbowl [laughs] because visitors come and watch me while I work. I also teach school groups fun little facts about LEGOs. And at the LEGO Master Model Builder Academy, we’re designing dragons, which are really cool.

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MP: My family has been to the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in New York and LEGOLAND® in Florida. What’s the Boston Center like?
IC: The mini land features a miniature Boston—you’ll see Fenway Park (my personal favorite) and the Zakim Bridge. The Boston mini land is the biggest of any LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in the world.

Fenway Park -  made entirely of LEGOs.

Fenway Park – made entirely of LEGOs.

MP: What do you do when you’re not working with LEGOs?
IC: I always like to keep busy. In the past, I landscaped a 12-acre estate, and I built a pretty elaborate tree house with a shingled roof in my backyard. It even has cable!

MP: Besides coming to the Old Port Festival earlier this month, what’s your connection to Maine?
IC: I’ve been coming to Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk since I was 6-weeks old. When I visit, I love to build sandcastles on the beach and hang out with my dog. People say I should enter a sandcastle competition, but I like building on my own. Usually some kids will come by and offer ideas. It’s perfect—I’m really a kid at heart.

Thanks so much to Ian for taking the time to chat! And guess what? The kind folks at The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center in Boston are offering a Cute Potato reader a family 4-pack pass (2 adults, 2 children) to the new center! All you need to do is comment below. Contest ends on Monday, June 30 at midnight EST. Good luck LEGO lovers!

FMI on the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Boston, visit their website or Facebook page.

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