Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brodey Moose Visits Monroe Salt Works Pottery

I know it has been a few weeks since I visited Monroe Salt Works here in Monroe, Maine. The temperatures were much warmer then and the leaves still green! Sometimes, things just take a little while to work into the schedule! But it was such an amazing and educational experience!

I have posted lots of pictures on Facebook and anyone can check them out by clicking here!

The good people at Monroe Salt Works produce the best salt glazed stoneware in the world and are recognized throughout North America and worldwide, as far away as Japan, for their outstanding quality and style. The pottery is highly durable and is safe for the table, dishwasher, microwave, and even the REAL oven! No lead is used in their pottery or paint and its durability makes it great to use everyday.

I like to call the place where it is produced their studio. When I say factory, you think of mass production and such, but Monroe Salt Works is far, far from being mass produced! Their goodies are made in the rolling hills of mid coast Maine, close to Penobscot Bay, on a dirt road even! They are surrounded by wild life and nature and if you look at their designs, you can see that each piece is influenced tremendously because of it!

Monroe Salt Works started in 1971 and for the past four decades, these artisans have been shaping and molding and firing and painting each piece by hand! Salt glazed pottery has been around for centuries, being developed in Germany in the 15th century. Wow! That is a long time ago! At Monroe Salt Works, they use most of the same techniques used way back then!

I could try to explain it but here is a quote directly from them about the creation process. "We load green (unfired) pottery into a large, walk in, hard brick Kiln. After loading, the fire begins very slowly. Over the next 20 hours, the fire builds and the temperature reaches 2300 F. Now the action really starts as we throw handfuls of salt into the roaring blaze. When the salt hits the white hot fire, it is immediately vaporized, the salt vapor combines with the firing pottery to create our pottery's unique and distinct glaze. There are always surface and color variations in the pieces from a salt glaze kiln. Some pieces receive large amounts of salt vapor and others little. The color and texture of each piece vary according to where the piece was in the kiln. It is this variation that makes a body of salt glazed pottery so rich and compelling. There are light pots and dark pot and dimpled pots and smooth pots. You can see the mark of the firing on each piece. No two pieces are ever alike. Each piece has its own character." That sounds just like moose! Each one has his own character!

During my visit there, I got to see how each piece is designed from a lump of clay to a beautifully finished piece. Each piece is handle by no less than 18 pairs of hands! They are molded, shaped, painted, trimmed, fired, checked, and so much more. Every part of the process is done right there in Monroe, Maine - nowhere else! It is designed with beauty in mind to admire it daily, but it is also made with durability in mind to be used daily!

I have started my own collection and I have more than just moose because it is difficult to decide which design I like best! They have a moose design, bears, pine trees, dragonflies, chickadees, cardinals, oak leaves and acorns, maple leaves, horses, buffalo, cattails, pine cones, black dog, crows, frogs, hummingbirds, loons, iris, roosters, and a few more even!

Want to buy a piece or two or three or four or more? By mentioning this blog, every time you make a purchase, we'll give you a deal! The deal is, buy one piece at regular price and get the second one of equal or lesser value at half price! Get that collection that you always wanted that will be with you for a life time and more!

Don't forget, check out all the pictures of my visit by clicking here!

I definitely give this pottery a two hooves up!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Cold and Rainy State

Here I sit looking out the window at the falling rain. Yes, I realize that moose really belong outside and not inside a building, but how am I supposed to type from outside, especially if it is raining? Computers prefer to stay dry and they work much better and longer if they are dry! So, inside I am typing!

I went to the big Farmington Fair in Farmington, Maine this week! I tried to stay hidden as much as possible because you know, when you get that many people and a moose walking around, everyone wants to get your picture and then you have no time to enjoy the delicious fair food! I had some french fries, fried dough, an ice cream, some fudge, AND I had another whoopie pie! I saw one and I couldn't resist the urge to sample it. I think it is my life's mission to find the best whoopie pie maker! This week I also had a pumpkin whoopie pie with cream cheese frosting for filling! That was delicious too! But I have to say that my grandmother still wins in the whoopie pie category.

Oh, I totally forgot what I was supposed to be typing about today. The thought of whoopie pies got me all distracted. Today, I wanted to ask a question and talk about it a little bit. Why is Maine almost always the coldest and rainiest state in the Northeast? If you look at the weather map of temperatures with this blog entry, taken from September 24th, you will see that all of the other states in the Northeast are quite a bit warmer than Maine.

Yes, I know it is further north than the rest of the states, but at least part of the state of Maine is at the same latitude as New Hampshire and Vermont. So, why does the temperature just seem to go south when a moose (or person) is headed north to Maine? It is an interesting phenomenon if you stop and think about it. Sometimes, the very southern tip of the state is warm like the rest of the world, but after you get to a certain line, it's like somebody forgot to pay the heat bill!

Being a moose and all, I like the cold temperatures because of all the fur that I have. However, some of my human friend counterparts, fail to see the goodness in cold temperatures. Now I am beginning to understand the concept of blue states and red states! Blue states are colder right? And red states are hotter? If you have any ideas on this I would love to hear your thoughts.

Until the next time...there's always Mooseville!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whoopie Pies or Moon Pies?

Well, this week I have had a huge craving for whoopie pies as we like to call them here in Maine! Yep, probably many of you, especially from the South might call these little goodies, Moon Pies. Well, I think there is a difference between the two! Both are probably as yummy as the other but they are a little different!

Let's examine a moon pie first! According to Wikipedia, "A moon pie or MoonPie[1] is a pastry which consists of two round graham cracker cookies, with marshmallow filling in the center, dipped in chocolate or other flavors. The traditional pie is about 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter. The four main flavors are chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana. Six newer flavors, lemon, orange, peanut butter, mint, blueberry and green tea are also available." It is nice to see that they are getting in on the health craze by adding green tea!

Even though moon pies got their roots from good ole New England, they are still the most popular and well known as a Southern food! Roots in New England you say? Yes - marshmallow cream originated in New England in the late 1920s and spread south and became very popular! Someone decided to put it between two cookies and cover it in chocolate and voila! you have a moon pie!

Whoopie Pies on the other hand are not covered in chocolate but are very similar in shape. They are made by putting two cake-like-cookie shapes together with delicious boiled frosting in the middle! Doing a little research on them, they were also very popular with the Amish and seems like this is where the name possibly originated. According to Wikipedia, "Amish women would bake these (known as hucklebucks at the time) and put them in farmers' lunchboxes. When farmers would find these treats in their lunch, they would shout 'Whoopie!'"

Well, let me tell you what, a moose has quite the sweet tooth and loves whoopie pies! Especially this moose! The new Mooseville shop in Farmington, Maine has a little sandwich/coffee shop right next to it and guess what they sell? Whoopie Pies! That is not such a great thing when you have a whoopie pie craving! I think I am going to try to have a mini whoopie pie festival at Mooseville in October!

I guess that is all for now! If you want a whoopie pie and have never had one before, send me an email - and let me know! I'll send you one for real!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Brodey Moose Visits Paine Balsam Products

A couple of weeks ago, I made a visit to a really cool company in Auburn, Maine called Paine Balsam Products. What an awesome place to visit and to work.

Do you know what balsam is? It is a lovely smelling scent, often called a pine scent. This balsam scent comes from the balsam fir tree which is an evergreen that is found throughout the northern forests, especially in Maine! Many Christmas wreaths are made from these fragrant tips. The folks at Paine Products, take these dried branch tips and put them into beautifully scented pillows and incense logs.

In fact, they use 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of these dried tips every week! Local loggers and tree farmers bring in their remaining tips from their operations and these are recycled into pillows and incense sticks. When the tips are received, they grind them down and put them in the pillows and they make the most aromatic smell! The leftover sawdust is used to create the infamous scented sticks that can be burned in the log cabins incense holders. Many people remember these log cabins from long ago.

The company was started in 1931 by Elliot Paine. In the 1940s, the Wentworth family purchased the business and owned through two generations of the family until 1988 when a fire destroyed the entire business. Fran Wentworth, owner at the time of the fire, at age 72, decided she did not want to rebuild the business. Guy Vigue, having retired the previously year, decided he wanted to purchase the rights to the business. He and a couple other friends rebuilt the business in 1989.

Soon after, Guy bought out his two partners and with his sons and daughter rebuilt the business to where it is today. Current owners, John and David Vigue and Anne Vigue Loomis, have plans to continue with growth and keep it as a family business long into the future.

Fans send mail often talking about remembering how their grandmother used to have one of those famous log cabins with the incense sticks always burning. They receive much thanks and praise for keeping the business thriving. You can see one of those famous log cabin burners here.

It is one of the only natural, non-oil based, incense that is on the market today. And just think, it is made right here in the Maine woods where the moose roam and help the balsam trees grow! These incense and gifts date all the way back to the Native Americans. Balsam has been a sign of friendship for hundreds of years.

So, my visit was not only fun but also very informational. I know when I walk through the woods now I will look at the trees all a little bit differently. You should try some of those balsam pillows or the incense sticks. Bring that sweet, woodsy scent into your home. Check out all the balsam pillows here at Mooseville or even visit Paine Products website here! See more pictures of my visit at the Mooseville Facebook page here!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dancing in the Lupines

Spring has definitely sprung around Mooseville, we might even be on the edge of summer. The roadside lupines are in full bloom right now and Mooseville couldn’t look more beautiful. Did you see the crazy fun clouds swirling around in last night’s sunset? Did you ever notice that the greatest pictures seem to happen when you left your camera at home?

Gardens are sprouting up all over the neighborhood – after last summer season’s wet sopping mess, I am surprised anyone is willing to try again. But, of course, I think we are all tempted by those colorful seed packages and the promise of little boxes of tomatoes seedlings. I did see my friend put in an extra row of Brussel sprouts, I think he is expecting me for dinner!

I wanted to send out a big Moostulations to all the students graduating this weekend! If you still need a gift for your favorite graduate, stop by and check out the new Mooseville store in Farmington.

One last thing…

As the mayor of Mooseville, one of my sworn duties is to remind all the Maine residents to vote next Tuesday, June 8th. Remember, you can’t complain about politics if you don’t vote! We will be voting about spending our money, taxes and choosing the Republican and Democratic candidates for the November governor’s race. So head down to your town office and cast your ballot.

The itch of black fly bites will continue for a bit longer and that trick about putting witch hazel on them does not seem to work at all for me. Any other ideas?

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Black Flies and Swimming

I was amazed at the amount of mail I received last week after my blog about fiddleheads. So many of you just did not know about the joy of that special little fern that grows along the banks of the Sandy River, but be sure to get some quick because the season will end soon.

Well, in my quest to bring you new and exciting news from Mooseville – this week I thought I would mention my most annoying friends. A hint: it is black, it buzzes and bites. The Black Fly is a my personal nemesis, so maybe I was being generous to call them friends! He makes picking fiddleheads a bloody nightmare even for a moose like
me. How can somethings so small be such a pain?

The only relief I can get is to go swimming, so despite the cool temperatures, I took my first spring bath in Mount Blue Pond yesterday – too bad that guy who was videotaping me near the road missed it. Depending on how I feel today, I might just take a bath two days in a row!

I do love to swim, but the water is still cold even for a fury moose like me!
Someone just forwarded me an email that asks what four places do you spend money? Moose money does not have the widespread acceptance as the dollar, but I always love to go to the Mooseville store for all things moose and I can have a good snack at the Salem General Store. If you need it for your house, they are sure to have it all at the Phillips Hardware Store. The Star Barn Uniques store offers great gifts and treasures, most made right around the neighborhood.

Have you been to the new Mooseville store yet? I sure have made some great new friends in Farmington, Maine and every time I am there, there is new stuff to see!

Check out all the new goodies here --!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Frenzy about Fiddleheads

I have been so distracted by fiddleheads that I haven’t written my column in a few weeks. Do you know about fiddleheads? They are a most wonderful little taste sensation that grows along the banks of the Sandy River in the springtime. Many have described them as a cross between asparagus and broccoli, but I think they have a special flavor all their own, but you have to be quick because they will be gone until next year sooner than you think.

I like them raw, but most folks cook them. Or you can pickle them, steam or sauté them with butter, it is hard to go wrong with fiddleheads.

Everything is in bloom including my allergies, but it does appear that spring has arrived a little earlier than usual. Besides the fiddleheads, Corey and I have been busy at the new store in Farmington. He has ordered up some great new products that feature my friends, so be sure to stop by and visit us soon.

I wanted to send out a hello to my pal, Luke who celebrated his 105th birthday on April Fool’s Day. He is one old dog, but he is enjoying his retirement! I know you like to see pictures of me, but Luke really wanted to be on Willard Scott’s birthday list and this was as close as I could muster for this year.

Have a great week of fiddlehead eating ahead!