Would You Give Ugly Vegetables a Home?

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odd shaped potatoes

Lowblaws, Canada’s largest grocery chain, is going to start offering imperfect selections in their produce department.  According to treehugger.com, the retailer is taking steps to reduce food waste, offer lower income families affordable fresh produce options, and help farmers {who know that not every veggies grows perfectly straight, round, etc.} by selling ugly produce.

They are calling it “No Name Naturally Imperfect” {I am totally having t-shirts printed up, because that is my new motto}.  You can buy this misshapen, perfectly edible produce at about a 30% reduced cost.  They are kicking off the experiment with apples and potatoes, with the hopes of adding more as the idea catches on.

The idea will hopefully have a meaningful impact on the estimated $31 billion worth the food waste each year {in JUST Canada alone!}.  It should also limit how much food ends up in landfills.  Best of all, it allows farmers to sell more of their crops–which means we may actually have farmers that can make a living feeding us.  It’s win-win-win.

I personally think this idea is awesome.  Go Canada! What do you think, would you buy ugly produce for a reduced cost?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Cutting out a Lunch Break can Lower Creativity and Productivity

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bagel for lunch

Remember awhile back when I wrote about work productivity going up when people take regular breaks?  Well, lunch counts as a break, and according to this NPR article, fewer and fewer people are taking lunch breaks these days–opting instead to stay at their desk and eat while they work.

According to the article, only about one in five people are regularly taking a lunch break.  Sitting in the same spot, without moving can significantly lower productivity and creativity.  Getting up regularly and getting outside…like outside, outside, not just outside of your office can reset your mind.  Strolling around outside for a bit helps to get your creative juices flowing.  According to one researcher, “‘mindless work’–which can include tasks like walking – can actually enhance creativity.”  Isn’t that so true?  I swear, sometimes I will mull over a problem for days with no resolution, and the minute I stop thinking about it and move on, the answer hits me.  Maybe that’s why I love gardening so much?  I get outside, my mind goes blank, and bam, I solve the world’s problems…now if I could just get someone to listen to my solutions.

Either way, I think we could totally combine getting away from our desks at lunchtime with a stroll and a bite to eat {that we don’t scarf down without chewing}.  How about you, do you take a lunch break?  Do you come back refreshed?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

School Cafeterias and Local Food

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chicken nuggetsHave you ever wondered why more schools don’t jump on the local food bandwagon?  I’ve always kind of had a Utopian view of school–like it is where we teach our kids to become the kind of humans we WANT them to be, not necessarily the kind we currently ARE.  When I was younger, the schools were totally pushing recycling–a concept that my parents’ generation thought liberal and ridiculous–but now, here we all are, most of us with recycling bins right next to our garbage cans.  So why haven’t we taken the same principle with local whole foods in the school cafeterias?  We could stimulate our local economies and fuel our babies with vitamin packed options–to me it sounds like a no-brainer.

holding-fresh-strawberries

Turns out, though, there are lots of reasons schools haven’t fully committed to local options–none of them very good, but all of them very understandable.  According to an article I read, several schools across the nation have tried diligently to offer local foods.  Still, roughly 64% of schools in the United States are not offering any local food choices.   Probably because, wouldn’t you know it, there is a lot of red tape.  There’s paperwork, contracts, supply and demand, proof of insurance, lack of availability of “approved” items, lack of federal backing, etc.  All of  which lead school district officials to take the simplified route and order all of their supplies from one large conglomerate, rather than vetting several individual farmers on a school by school basis.

carrots

I know change is slow, and there are a lot of really great programs out there trying to change the way we buy, prepare and consume foods–some of them are probably schools.  So, I want to know, do your kids’ school lunch program offer local selections?  Or does Sysco pull up in a semi and drop off boxes of chicken nuggets and baby carrots from Mexico?  Do you care either way?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Composting for the Home Gardener

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Composting For the Home Gardener

Composting can seem a bit overwhelming if you’re a newbie, but it’s actually really, really simple.  You can use a composter that is super simple and cheap, or you can get a fancy one.  Either way, “cooking your garbage”  {Thanks Uncle Buck}, is like FREE nutrient rich goodness for your garden.  All it really requires is for you to toss your scraps into the bin and poke it around every once in awhile.  I know that sounds over-simplified, but seriously, nature pretty much does the job for you.

You can compost kitchen scraps, yard scraps, used napkins, coffee filters, etc.  Between recycling and composting, you will literally be shocked at how little garbage you generate.  Start with kitchen scraps–they are the easiest.  You’ll need a bowl, container, or kitchen compost bin to toss your scraps in.  If you are committed to taking the scraps out to the composter each day, a bowl/bucket should be fine.  If  you aren’t, I recommend a kitchen composter.  It will help keep your kitchen from smelling like garbage.  Just toss in compostable scraps {for a full list of everything that is compostable in the kitchen, go HERE} and then dump it into the outdoor compost pile when it gets full.

vegetable peelings for compost

For your outdoor compost pile, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  You want to have a nice mix of food waste and garden waste.  Keep the pile moist, but not soggy.  You want the microorganisms that are naturally present to do their job and break down the food/garden scraps into compost.  Providing air is one way to expedite the process.  Every once in awhile {like every two weeks, or so}, turn your compost with a pitch fork or shovel.  It adds air to the mix, and it helps to mix in decay with non-decay.  If you want to expedite the process, you can add bone meal or dried blood to the mix–but that is not necessary.

Compost

The cooking time on compost varies a ton, in my experience.  I think it has to do with how hot the mixture gets, what is in the layers, etc.  I’ve had batched “cook” relatively quickly, while others seem to take forever.  Either way, you know compost is done with it has a very earthy smell {the rotting garbage smell goes away a bit} and is almost black.  It will crumble in your hands, like a mixture of earth and soil.  The compost will be “hot” initially–meaning very high in nitrogen, so you won’t want to spread it out on  your garden and immediately plant.  It’s best to spread it out in the fall  or wait until very early spring and give it a month or two before planting.  If you go the fall route, just lay it over the top of your garden beds and wait until spring to mix it in with the soil.  In the spring, you can mix it directly in with the soil.  {It’s best for your garden soil not to toil it in the fall, it promotes healthy microorganisms–that’s why you don’t mix it in in the fall.}

How to Make a Compost Tumbler

You can buy a composter if you are trying to keep things simple.  There are literally tons of styles to choose from.  If you are looking for a more budget friendly options, they are super easy to make.  You can make a compost tumbler, like my friend Heather did last year, which is awesome, because you can “turn” the compost with minimal effort.  At my last house, I made our composter out of pallets the HH brought home.  It worked great, and cost me next to nothing.  Whichever option you choose, you’ll just want to make sure that you have some place to “cook” your compost {which, by the way, is just a fancy way to say get your garbage to break down using oxygen, water, and naturally occurring heat from the breakdown process}.

How-to-Build-a-Compost-Bin-Out-of-Wood-Pallets

You seriously CANNOT screw compost up.  It happens whether you try for it or not–naturally occurring waste breaks down…you might as well take advantage of the awesomeness that happens as a result in your garden.

Happy composting,

Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Cooking From Your Pantry | Menu Plan Ideas, Freezer Meals and Simple Recipes Week 12 of 52

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cooking from your pantry

I’m in the mood for baking lately. Breads, cookies, pies you name it. I usally hold off and make my favorite carrot cake for Easter Sunday, but this year? I don’t know if I can wait. ;)

Here are a few recipe suggestions for your meal plan this week:Cranberry Coffee Cake3 Breakfast Ideas

Popovers – I love these soft and chewy on the inside, flaky on the outside puffs.  They are awesome with a little jam–or butter and honey.  {Pin it for Later}

Fried Potatoes with Peppers and Zucchini – This is a great way to start your day off with veggies, and not feel like it’s punishment.  this stuff is delicious.  {Pin it for Later}

Cranberry Coffee Cake - This would make an awesome Easter breakfast, I think.  It’s sweet and tart all at the same time.  {Pin it for Later}

Easy Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili Recipe4 Lunch Ideas and Dinner Ideas

Cheesy Beef Tortilla Casserole - This recipe is about as easy as it gets.  It basically involves you dumping a handful of ingredients into a casserole dish and baking.  Plus, it uses up all of those tiny little tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag.  {Pin it for Later}

Brown Sugar Salmon – This is my go-to salmon recipe.  {Pin it for Later}

Easy Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili – This recipe makes appears on a pretty regular rotation at our house…and best of all, it was sent to me by a reader.  {Pin it for Later}

Dijon Potato Salad with Green Onions – Putting Dijon into potato salad is pretty much a life altering experience.  It turns tater salad up a notch.  {Pin it for Later}

the best moist carrot cake recipe3 Sweet Treats 

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches - When I make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I like to assemble a couple of ice cream sandwiches for dessert.  It’s super easy to slap them together, and my family always thinks they are a treat.  The recipe calls for homemade ice cream, but I admit, I usually use the vanilla store bought we have in the freezer, because making them is usually kind of an after thought.  {Pin it for Later}

My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe – If  you are planning the menu for your Easter gathering, I seriously cannot recommend this carrot cake enough.  It. Is. Divine.  {Pin it for Later}

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream – In case you are feeling ambitious and want to put homemade ice cream in the ice cream sandwiches, here is my favorite recipe.  {Pin it for Later}

Easy Freezer Meals - Roadside SlidersFeatured Freezer Meal Recipe

Roadside Sliders – It’s time to gear up for grilling season, which for me, means making seasoned, hand shaped hamburger patties.  {Pin it for Later}

how-to-dehydrate-strawberriesFeatured Food Preservation Recipe 

How to Dehydrate Strawberries - Strawberries have officially hit the stores.  If you don’t grow your own, this is a good time to stock up when they are marked down and dehydrate them for yummy recipes, like granola.  {Pin it for Later}

What are YOU planning on making this week?

~Mavis

Find more recipes on One Hundred Dollars a Month as well as on my Pinterest Recipe Boards.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Seeds and Recipes Passed on to a New Generation

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seeds2

Typically the emails I receive for my Trash to Treasure posts are garage sale or thrift store finds. They have never been this personal and I have never loved a submission more. My friend Heather from Massachusetts sent this in and let me tell you Bob, it’s some good stuff:

Hey Mavis,

You of all people would appreciate the story I have.

My mom called in early March to say my grandma was not “doing well” and if I wanted to say good bye to her I should come now. {She was 89 and was fighting cancer for the last 4 yrs so not a surprise}. I hopped on a plane the weekend of March 7th and hustled down to know-wheres-land Indiana. Seriously, a desolate farming community- very interesting but that’s a whole different story.

Turns out my mom was right, as she passed the next Monday. Over that weekend I was able to support my mom and help her sort and pack the MASSIVE amount of stuff my Gma had collected.

My Gma had insisted that her close family come over and “take what they had given her or anything else they wanted” – there’s a simple will for you! With my mom as the “final say” it all went incredibly smoothly.

As it is in every family, everyone sees different “treasures” among other people’s stuff. What I found to be total junk, my aunt thought was valuable – and vice versa.

I’m telling you all this because I think you would think my treasure was treasure too.

seedsMy Gma had seeds stashed all over! I was thinking I’d create a grandma garden with her seeds. Some seeds are un-labled, they’ll be a surprise.

seeds3And my great grandmother’s recipes written in her hand!

~Heather

Heather- thank you for sharing this. So sorry to hear about your grandma, but the treasures you found are so awesome. Grow on, Grandma. Grow on.

~Mavis

Do you have an eye for trash or treasure? Send a picture of your awesome find and the story behind how you came upon it and if we post them, you’ll earn a $20 gift card to Amazon.com. The greatest store in the world. Go HERE for complete details.

See More Trash to Treasure Posts:

Red and White Enamelware + Vintage Berry Press
Terra Cotta Flower Pots
Mavis Scores Big At The Garage Sale
Wooden Garden Sign
Mavis Scores BIG at the Goodwill
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Pumpkins
How to Find Free Containers For Your Garden
Mavis Goes to the Goodwill and Finds the Best Dress Ever!
Mavis Goes to The Goodwill and Finds 50 Boyfriends Worse Than Yours

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Ask Mavis: Mavis Needs to Borrow Your Knowledge {And She Answers a Few Questions, too!}

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homemade sweet potato chews puggle
A few great questions from a few great readers. Check it out and pipe up if you can contribute some amazing knowledge. I’m counting on you for a few of these!

Hi Mavis,

I have a question. I have two pugs who love the dehydrated sweet potato dog treats I get at the grocery store. They are sticks of dried sweet potato with a strip of chicken jerky wrapped around them. Can you tell me how you think they could be made at home? Would I wrap the raw chicken around the fresh sweet potato stick and dehydrate them together? At what temp and for how long? Although I have been gardening for years, this is my first year dehydrating, and I love it.

Thanks.

~Linda

Dehydrating chicken is pretty simple. I’d use the breast instead of dark meat because it dehydrates better. And then make sure you cut away every piece of fat and skin you can and just dry the actual chicken. Cut the strips so they are super thin and then wrap them around the sweet potato {check out how I dry mine HERE}. I’d follow the dehydrating guidelines on your dehydrator and set it for about 12 hours. Let us know how they turn out!

Zaycon-ground-beef-eventHi Mavis, I love your blog and all of your recipes, your family eats whole foods without all the processed junk. Growing all of your produce is awesome. Love that you can feed your family on 100.00 a month.  Have a question, you have mentioned many times that you have picked up meat from Zaycon using credits. Lucky you, and what a blessing for you. I also order from Zaycon. For someone who can’t earn enough credits, what would you add to your 100.00 a month for a family of three if you had to buy meat regularly. Even buying for freezer meals. Just curious what resources you would use?

~ Debbie

That’s a tricky question because it really is family specific. My family doesn’t mind meals without meat as a protein and we routinely eat them, so we go through less meat anyway than the typical meat eating family anyway I think. Often times, you can find discounted meat or meat on a great sale and stock up that way, which also will reduce that cost. If I didn’t use my Zaycon Foods credit and had to put a number on it, which again is subjective, I’d say $20 a month. But I am curious what other readers budget for meat? Anyone want to chime in?

flexees by maidenformHi Mavis, I was just wondering what the name of those tank tops you rave about… the great ones that hide the muffin top:)

Thanks,

~Kamy

My favorite muffin top hiders are the Flexees Women’s Fat Free Dressing Tank Tops . You can often find them on sale for as low as $15. I own several of these and let me tell you Bob, THEY WORK! I wear these tank tops every day under my regular shirts and they make a huge difference. You won’t regret snagging a few of these bad boys!

cascade delight raspberries
Hello Mavis, Our backyard holds lots of water during the winter months. I really want to plant my blackberry, raspberry and blueberry bushes in the ground but am scared that the water logging will kill them. I read about the french drain. Do you have any other suggestions? We have already tried thatching and aerating our lawn but it doesn’t help. :( With your vast knowledge I thought I would ask you as to what we should do .

Thanks!

~Meghan

Okay lovely readers, I need your help on this one! I’ve never built a french drain and so I’m not sure how well they work? Anyone use them and if so, you think it would be a great idea for Meghan? Any other tips for her to help her drain water off her backyard?

wood pallets
Mavis, Do you mind if I share a link to your article Pallet Gardening 101 on my blog I’m writing about Raised Beds and Pallet Gardens?

Thanks! ~ Patrick

By all means, share away! I never mind if my posts are shared as long as proper post and photo credit is given. Sharing is caring after all, right!

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Do You Change Out the Potting Soil in Your Containers Every Year?

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filling pots with potting soil

One Hundred Dollars a Month reader, Barbara, recently sent in a question about the soil in my containers.  Not only is the question pretty timely, given that it is almost time to address the containers on my patio, but I thought it might be something some of my other readers want to know.

Barbara wrote,

Hi Mavis,
I have a quick question for you about your garden containers that you use on a patio. Do you put new potting soil in them each year or do you take out what has died and add more soil to it? Some containers I have are larger and I am trying to keep from having to put all new soil which gets to add up in cost. I know that when you moved you are probably starting fresh.

Thanks for your help.

Barbara

I typically change out my soil once a year and toss the old potting soil into my vegetable garden.  I have found that my pots simply do better with fresh soil each year.  A lot of times, when I pull out the soil from the previous year, there are significant roots, which limit how well then next year’s plantings can do.  I feel pretty good about just tossing the old soil into my beds, because I typically mix in some homemade compost, and really work the soil in.  My beds seem to do great with this process.  Also, I usually make my own potting soil, which is waaaay more cost effective than buying the pre-bagged mix.

DIY-How-to-Make-Your-Own-Potting-Soil

If you have giant pots and don’t want to commit to filling them year after year, just add old gallon sized milk jugs to the bottom of containers.  It will take up some of the space in the bottom of you pots, and limit how much soil you have to add each year.  {The only time I would caution against this, is if you are growing something that likes to have nice deep roots, like tomatoes, in your containers.}

If you are only growing flowers, you can also just replace about 1/3 of  your soil each year, mixing the new in with the old, and making sure to remove roots from the previous year.  {You may want to consider a high quality organic fertilizer a couple of times during the growing season if you choose the 1/3 soil replacement method.}

However you decide to change out your soil, the key to successful container gardening IS healthy soil.  The plants are totally dependent on the soil you provide them in the small space to grow.  They can’t draw from the earth around them, so taking the extra step to make sure they have nutrient rich soil each year really will show in the final product.

Hope that helps.  Great question, Barbara.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig For Your Dinner – Growing Peas and Sweet Pea Flowers from Seed

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sugar snap peas

It’s time to get your peas planted!!!

Peas and Sweet Pea flowers are both hardy enough that you can directly sow them outside as soon as the soil can be worked.  Peas are about the easiest thing ever to grow.  They can tolerate the cold.  They have a fairly short growing season, so you can enjoy them early, and then use the space to plant later warm crops in their spot.  Best of all, they add nitrogen to the soil while they grow, so they will enrich your soil for whatever you plan to put there next.

pink sweet pea flowers

Sweet pea flowers add a pop of early spring color to borders–and they smell unbelievable.  While they like to have “their heads” in the sun, their roots can be shaded–which makes them ideal for the cooler weather.

soak peas befor eyou plant

How to Grow Peas

Peas do best in temperatures under 70 degrees.  Most seed packets recommend soaking seeds for 12-24 hours before planting.  I’ve heard mixed opinions of whether that is necessary…I do go ahead and soak them, and I’ve never had negative results because of it.  Just toss them in a bowl with water, let them sit for the recommended time indicated on your seed packet, and then drain them and you are ready to plant.

sugar snap peas

To plant them, choose a sunny location.  If you are growing snow peas or sugar snap peas you will need a trellis for them to climb.  Follow general planting guides on the back of your seed packet {different pea varieties have slightly different directions}, but in general, plant them about 1″ deep and 2″ apart.  You won’t need to thin them–which is nice, because you can pack them in nice and tight and still get great yields.

peas in pod

When Are Peas Ready to Harvest?

Peas are ready to harvest when they’ve started to plump.  Don’t let them get too plump, or their flavor will be affected.  Harvest frequently to encourage growth.  To harvest them, just clip or snap them off of the vine right at the top the pea.

sweet pea flowers

How to Grow Sweet Pea Flowers

To plant sweet pea seeds, choose a sunny location {though, as I mentioned their roots can be shaded, which makes them great in garden bed borders, where shrugs might block some of the sunlight}.  Plant the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked {usually about 6 weeks before the last frost}.  Plant seeds 1/2″-1″ deep, and space them according to the directions on the seed packets {different varieties have different requirements}.  If you want a faster germination, you can nick the seeds and soak them in water for a couple of hours.  If you want them to get the most out of their blooming season, you may want to consider a quality organic fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.

 

Ranch Pasta Salad with Broccoli, Spinach and Green PeasRanch Pasta Salad with Broccoli, Spinach, and Green Peas

recipe peas and baconPeas and Bacon

Fresh Pea Salad with Bacon and Chives
Fresh Pea Salad with Bacon and Chives

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

10 Things to Do in Portland, Maine

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10 Things to Do in Portland, MaineDear East Coast,

I love you, and I don’t care who knows it.

Sincerely,

Mavis

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Seriously, one day, I am going to pack my bags and head East permanently.  I love it here.  I don’t mind the winters {maybe that’s the newbie in me talking}.  I like the people, the history… LOVE IT.

So, in an effort to promote the awesomeness that is Maine, I made a list of the 10 must-do things if you ever make it to Portland, Maine.  Here you go:

  1. Visit one of 6 lighthouses that are all just outside of Portland.  They are as picturesque as the movies.
  2. Take a stroll {or rent bikes} down the Eastern Promenade.  It’s next to the water, and even in winter, it’s full of fresh air and ambiance.
  3. Walk through Eastern Cemetery.  Call me morbid, but I love to walk through old cemeteries.  It’s like a history lesson.  This one is the oldest in Portland, Maine.  Some of the grave stones go as far back as the 1600′s.
  4. Hit the YEAR ROUND Portland Farmers’ Market.  It’s supposed to be one of the largest in the country–and don’t worry, in the winter, they are indoors.
  5. Try DiMillos.  It’s a floating restaurant, and if you are into fresh seafood, it’s a spiritual experience.
  6. Tour Victoria Mansion.  We didn’t get to visit this one while we were there, as it is only open May through October, but it’s supposed to be pretty darn cool.  It’s furnished in its pre-Civil war glory.  It was originally built in 1858-1860 {and we get angry when our houses take longer than 6 months to build!}, and really is an impressive architectural marvel.
  7. Weather permitting, take a boat ride to the Casco Bay Islands.  Afterall, you are on coastal Maine–you might as well experience the full “coastal” charm.  If you can’t take a boat, as least go to Casco Bay and check out all of the boats.
  8. Tour the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up in this house, which has now been converted to a museum/gardens.  Longfellow was an iconic American poet–and his childhood home really does say a lot about his charmed history.  It’s no wonder he was such a romantic.LL Bean Flagship Store Giant Boot Freeport Maine
  9. Shop your way through the L.L. Bean flagship store.  This one is actually in Freeport, just a short drive away.
  10. Walk your way through Old Port.  This is an older part of town right on the waterfront.  It’s got restaurants, neighborhoods, etc.  I don’t know about you, but I love to see the neighborhoods–it’s like a glimpse into the daily life of living in coastal Maine.

Any of you locals have some must-do’s or must-see’s that I’ve missed?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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