Based on her writings, and our correspondences and phone conversations, I knew that Amanda Soule and I had an affinity towards one another. I also suspected that our spouses and children would dig each other, too. Little did I know just how much, though. The Soules and Englishes are living parallel lives, it would appear. Our friends to the north also love to gather around the long dining table for home-cooked meals, take ambling walks in the woods, and savor all of the richness life has to offer best witnessed when you slow down.
They are uncommonly kind, and generous, these sweet Soules. From homecooked meals to bedside bars of chocolate placed atop our bath towels, from jars of home-boiled maple syrup sent home with us to children willing to share their every last possession (not to mention their bedrooms-thanks again, Calvin!), these folk are what we in the South call "good people."
Amanda and Steve's homestead in the foothills of western Maine is a living, breathing testament to the Handmade Home of her writings. Here's a listing of some of the handmade elements at the Soule-stead we enjoyed this past weekend:
*Saturday: The Soules were boiling maple sap in their woodshed when we arrived and Amanda offered us homemade chocolate chip muffins and cups of warm sap to sip as we gathered to watch the sap boil. We then headed indoors for exceptionally delicious bowls of turkey, carrot and kale soup (made with the family's own turkeys meat and stock), served alongside chunks of Irish soda bread we picked up at Scratch bakery in Portland and Urban Fermentory hard cider (another fantastic local offering). We returned back to the outdoor wood stove, where Amanda served us amazing hot toddies before taking a tour of the parcel on their land they plan to turn into pasture for a future flock of sheep and a dairy cow. That night we enjoyed a soul-satisfying dinner of pulled pork (again, from their own animals) with homemade barbeque sauce, salad with scrumptious dressing, roasted beets and, my favorite, roasted brussels sprouts. SO good.
*Sunday: The family all gathered around the kitchen table that Steve built (so very beautiful to view it up close!) for a hot breakfast of their chicken's eggs, the family's bacon, local yogurt, apple butter and bread. We headed into town and while Amanda had an editorial meeting for Taproot, Steve, the kids and we three Englishes savored the beach at Kettle Cove. That was followed by the Taproot event at Longfellow Books, such a lovely, well-supported community bookstore. Josh, the owner of 158 Pickett St. (and, in a stranger-than-fiction sort of way, the brother of my close friend Jess here in Asheville) then opened up his cafe for Amanda for an after-hours private party for the magazine's contributors and their families. The chicken salad, pimento cheese, hummus with feta and olives, and cucumber sandwiches they served were divine, as was the bottle of Knob Creek the beautiful Stacy Brenner contributed. We'd also savored 158's much-lauded bagel sandwiches Saturday morning before heading out to the Soule's place and can attest for just how transcedent they truly are.
*Monday: We awoke to the otherworldly aroma of granola baking. That was munched on with chopped apples and pears and topped up with creamy local yogurt and enjoyed alongside mugs of hot coffee (French pressed, naturally!).
It's always great to meet anyone new. Like I wrote a while back, I'm down for connecting and chatting with all kinds of folks, whether we share the same habits, routines, preferences and predilections or not. That said, there is something so comforting about the seamless kinship that is cultivated with others that share your way of viewing and doing. The Soules are "our people" and we can't wait to return the hospitality chez English.
You can view more photos from our Soule-stice here.