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Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth

Sea Glass Restaurant at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth became our go-to place for brunch before cutting down our tree at the Old Farm Christmas Place each early-December. And we loved it. It’s been an annual tradition for years now.

We went with both teen-aged sons, then with just one at a time when the other was away at college, then with Matt & his fiancée to celebrate their new engagement, and now sometimes, like this year, with just Frank and me – adult sons far flung across the U.S., now beginning their own holiday traditions.

We picked Sea Glass for the close location to the tree farm, but also because I love restaurants with a view.

And Sea Glass has that in spades.

The small restaurant, wrap-around back deck, and grounds look out onto Kettle Cove, Richmond Island, and Crescent Beach across an expanse of brush, and woods on one side. There is a wooden boardwalk from the lawn that meanders through the trees, bare of leaves in December, down onto the dark gray sand of Crescent Beach.

You can take a short walk on the beach or a long one all the way through the park at Kettle Cove. You can also climb the rocks at the far end of the shore and walk along a path that looks down onto the ocean until the property turns private.

Depending on the time of day, the sunshine glistening in the cove, can be stunning. You might see a lobster boat or two moored, but rarely do we see boats moving through the cove in winter.

Breakfast at the Sea Glass is delicious with all of your usual suspects – eggs benedict, omelets, and breakfast sandwiches – but also Local Lobster Toast with a scrambled egg, wilted spinach and hollandaise or Apple Stuffed French Toast or Apple-Cranberry Parfaits. The restaurant is small, quiet and calm.

Calm amidst the holiday activities is what I’m thinking about for this post.

Across the entrance hall at Inn by the Sea is a small lounge with a fireplace and gorgeous holiday decorations this time of year. Furniture remains on the outside deck all four seasons, with fireboxes, and blankets if you’re hearty enough to take your hot toddy or Irish Coffee outside in the fresh air during the holiday season.

A firepit with Adirondack chairs also remains on the lawn all year – a place to warm mittened hands while you toast marshmallows for s’mores.

The inn offers traditional oceanfront rooms in the main building and newer 1-2 bedroom suites. It is a stunning spot for summer weddings, a gorgeous family get-away, tucked into the dunes of coastal Maine.

As we get older, the best gifts to us are experiences, not things.

One December, for Frank’s birthday, we went to the Mount Washington Hotel and I will remember it and treasure it forever. That Friday afternoon as Frank was leaving work early and I was at home packing our snow shoes and outer wear, a tragedy was occurring at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. When Frank entered our kitchen, he said I needed to turn the news off – he couldn’t watch it.

As we drove through the White Mountains that afternoon, deep in thought over the news, snow gently fell. Our minds were scattered. We breathed in, breathed out. We discovered a weekend away, alone, amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and news of the world, could not have been sweeter.

The resort was decked out in the most spectacular holiday decorations; the giant fireplace roared. The dinners, prepared for us, after so much of our own prepping we’d been doing since Thanksgiving -- and would be doing more of before the get-togethers ended – were delightful. Winter comfort food served in a beautiful setting while the weather outside was frightful. We were overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.

As we snow-shoed down the White Mountain path along the river, so far from the hotel, on that Saturday morning, I thought of Sandy Hook and how different our morning looked compared with all of those families suffering a most unimaginable tragedy. It was a turning point for us.

It gave us pause.

Better enjoy every day.

Better slow down and enjoy nature and being together.

Experiences with those we love, calm amidst the storm, can’t help but make us grateful, can’t help but bring us joy.

Comfort and joy.

Whether we go far, or near, doesn’t matter. Heading to the Inn by the Sea this year, in pretty-much our own backyard, will no doubt be just as magical as the Mount Washington Resort was the year we began another new tradition – celebrating Frank’s birthday by simply spending time together, no gifts needed.

The time is the gift.

I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays – filled with comfort and joy.

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