Covingenuity, Christmas Cheer, and a #giveaway

by Barb, in Portland, Maine with snow on the ground

Hi All. Advance Reader copies for Shucked Apart, the ninth Maine Clambake Mystery, are here and I’m giving one away to a lucky commenter below.


Last Thursday the bug guy came and Bill and I had to be out of the house for four hours. Ordinarily, this would be no problem on a December afternoon. We probably would have strolled to the Old Port, had a nice lunch and poked in and out of the shops for Christmas presents and stocking stuffers.

We’re not doing any of that stuff now. So we planned a different sort of day. We drove up the coast to Boothbay Harbor. We checked in on our former house, which is undergoing a massive renovation. It’s so nice to see someone spending money and care that it needed and knowing it will be a family home for a while to come.

House soon after it was built in 1879
House when my mother-in-law owned it.
House now

Then we picked up food curbside at the pizza place outpost of our favorite restaurant in Boothbay Harbor, Ports of Italy. We drove out to the end of Spruce Point and ate in the car as we watched the sun set.

From there we killed a little time while Bill took some pictures.

Then we drove off for our scheduled time at Gardens Aglow, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens annual holiday light show. Normally it is a lovely stroll around the gardens in the crisp winter air accompanied by the smells of pine and kettle corn. This year, it’s a drive through display, highly organized with timed tickets.

This is an example of what I have been calling “covingenuity”–people and organizations that respond to the current situation with creativity and gusto.

A dramatic scene in my Maine Clambake novella in the collection Yule Log Murder takes place at Gardens Aglow.

The light show really helped get me in the mood for the holidays and I’m so glad we did it.

(Note: All photos taken by Bill Carito in challenging circumstances from a slowly moving car. If you would like to see more of Bill’s photos follow him on Instagram @billcarito and @bill.carito.colorphotos )

Readers: Do you have an example of “covingenuity” in your family, friend groups or community? Tell us about them or just say “hi” to be entered to win an Advance Reader Copy of Shucked Apart.

85 Thoughts

  1. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a day. I grew up in Alna and went to Wuscasset High. Boothbay was our biggest rival for basketball. I am listening to your clambake series on AUDIBLE. Very fun.

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  2. Lots of covinenguity in that four hour stretch, Barb. I guess mine is discovering several never-explored state parks halfway between my son and us for fresh-air walking visits! Alas, that might be coming to an end for a few months unless we get unseasonably warm weather.

    Are you sad they took out that other staircase at the front?

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  3. Hi Barbara, I loved the pictures. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Boothbay Harbor. I loved our weekend there and taking the water taxi to go shopping. Merry Christmas!! pgenest57(at)aol(dot)com Paula

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  4. I am in awe of the people who organize pop-up food pantries where those of us who are socially isolating can drive through and have our trunks loaded with food.

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  5. Hi,

    In our small Church community during the summer we had Church in the parking lot, I called it Parking Lot Church. It was nice to see everyone even though we all brought our own chairs and sat distanced from each other. Due to the set up of our Church they continued the pantry by dispersing food through the front door to one family at a time.

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      1. Even pre-COVID, we used to have driveway church potlucks here, because two mobility-impaired members could never get up the stairs to my house. I would host in June when the sun sets late, and we have a wide driveway. It was fun!

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  6. Love the lite up moose! We have brought home take out, but nothing as creative as you. Maybe we should go on a long way around drive next time!

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  7. City here has been putting up the lights. Waiting to see if they put up the 12 days of christmas displays on the side of buildings downtown. Fun for all.

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  8. Since Covid has changed so much in our area, most if not all holiday events that normal occur this time of year have been cancelled. To pick up the slack some organizations and churches have been planning such events as the showing of Christmas movies at the old drive in making sure social distancing is observed, drive through nativities and even more light displays that can be observed as drive bys.

    My best friend works with the Missouri Botanical Gardens doing the “glo” like you have in your area. I’ve been fortunate enough to go up to visit during this time before and it’s gorgeous. For them it’s one of their biggest fund raisers for the year. She’s said the crowds being down due to the restrictions they have had to work around have made them take a big dip in funding this year. Awesome that yours can adapt to a drive through situation. Theirs is more a stroll through that most folks spend one or more nights just enjoying being out and taking in all the sights. Isn’t it amazing how lights and some folks creativity change the whole setting!

    Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to win an ARC of ” Shucked Apart”. Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.

    Have a wonderful week!
    Be safe, stay healthy and have a little adventure along the way – even if through the pages of good book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Yes, I expect this whole season has been a major funding hit for the Gardens, especially since the tour can’t leave you off at the gift shop the way the strolling one did, where I always bought a few stocking stuffers.

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  9. The drive-thru Christmas light display is similar to a 2020 COVID version we have in Ottawa but since I don’t drive, I can’t go see it. However, there are nice traditional Christmas lights in the downtown within walking distance that I have to check out.

    DON’T include me in the ARC drawing since I live in Ontario and I already have a digital ARC of Shucked Apart from Netgalley. I can easily remember the book release date since it is on my birthday!

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  10. Hi Barb – lovely to see the botanical garden in Maine, sadly our local botanical garden, Tower Hill, is not doing their Winter Reimagined lights. Our family went every year and dinner out after to warm up! Hoping to find
    an alternative drive thru light display, many of them seem to be sold out.

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    1. We always used to have dinner after to warm up, too. This year the restaurants are already closed for the season, so we couldn’t have even if we had a mind to.

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  11. Your house looks beautiful, Barb!

    A lot of local theaters are doing virtual/livestream programming. We bought tickets for a livestream Christmas concert from Straight No Chaser (not local, but we saw them a couple years ago and it was a good show). I just got an email that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has put together a “First Night Pittsburgh” package of locally-made treats and a curated Spotify playlist for New Year’s Eve and I’m sure there will be a livestream event of the ball raise (yes, we raise the ball in Pittsburgh, we don’t drop it).

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  12. I am a performer and am proud of what some of my favourite theatres are able to do during the pandemic. One, The Old Vic, has managed to produce live, socially-distanced performances via zoom link. They did an amazing job with Claire Foy and Matt Smith in LUNGS. And what is also wonderful is that I wouldn’t have seen the performance during its regular run as I am not living in the UK. So this blasted virus has actually given me a virtual travel and theatre experience! We’ll soon be watching their live-streamed A CHRISTMAS CAROL starring Andrew Lincoln. There are plenty of other theatres here in Chicago doing virtual performances. I encourage other theatre lovers to see what their local theatres have on tap.

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  13. Those pictures are lovely. They definitely can put a person into the holiday spirit. My favorite examples of covingenuity are how so many events are moving online. It makes them so much more accessible to people who are long-distance.

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    1. I agree! I did a book event with Lynne Truss on Saturday. She was in Brighton, England, I was in Portland. Maine and the two sponsoring bookstores were in Bangor, Maine and MIlwaukee, Wisconsin. Never, every would have happened in the Before Times. By the way, Lynne’s book, Murder by Milk Bottle, was hilarious.

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  14. We love Ports of Italy – enjoyed a lovely family dinner there last Christmas and topped if off visiting the Botanical Gardens – so pretty 🎄🎄🎄.

    Love your books and can’t wait to read your new one 🙂

    Merry Christmas 🎄🎄🎄

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  15. Oh my gosh, I just want to visit Maine! I’m 65years old and Maine has been on my bucket list forever!

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  16. I live in the same town as Six Flags Magic Mountain, which has been closed for months. They have decorated for Christmas and are letting people drive through the park to see the lights. I’m a little cheap to pay the per person fee to do that, but I do admire their creativity. And being able to drive through the park is rather tempting.

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    1. I did like the clever way the Botanical Gardens laid out the drive through in a place that isn’t really meant to be driven through. It was part of the thrill. I hear you on the per car pricing. You’re tempted to invite friends along, but of course you can’t for the very reason it’s drive through in the first place.

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      1. In this case, it is a per person fee. If you have 5 people in the car, they each pay $25, so you’d pay $125. If it’s just you, it’s $25.

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  17. Lovely pics, that house is so pretty! I could picture ladies of the 1800’s sitting out on that porch.

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  18. My son & dil had to vacate their house for a day with my 18 month old grandson while their bathtub was being reglazed on a cold, rainy day in Seattle. So…they packed a couple of clothing changes & snacks & spent the day in a park. My grandson had a grand time in the downpour, running around & splashing in puddles. They changed his clothes twice, ate snacks in the car & brought him home in tee shirt & diaper & a blanket!

    I love the holiday lights photos. The best display I’ve ever seen was in Mt. Dora FL, in town & at the Marina. The lights add so much cheer to the season!

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    1. I had to look up where Mt. Dora is to see if I would ever be nearby at holiday time. It’s possible. My nephew’s family has rented a place in Orlando with another family since they are all work-and-school-at-home. I’ll tell them to see what is up in Mt. Dora this holiday season.

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  19. I’ve never been to Maine this time of the year – I bet it’s beautiful! Enjoyed the pictures you shared. We did a drive thru light show Thanksgiving week. It was so nice to experience something festive, especially after the year we’ve had.

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  20. Barb, you are always a joy to read. I relish all of your characters and since I am not a re-reader, you can’t write fast enough for me! I have saved my favorite authors Christmas stories for this time of year – and even with Covid – they bring great joy and celebration of the season. Christmas lights too always bring joy! I am so glad I found your stories and some of your other author friends – I find immersing myself in these stories has helped me stay safe and stay well in this trying time. I wish you all Merry Christmas, the Happiest of Holidays.

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  21. Great pictures, Barb, both of the house and the light display. I do miss visiting Maine and all of New England. Have been in Pennsylvania for 30 years, and I love it, but NE has a special charm, too.

    I’m impressed with how so many restaurants and stores have spent a lot of time and money in renovating their interiors to make it safe to still enjoy their wares.

    Years ago, I stumbled upon a Christmas choir practice at the San Xavier Mission in Tucson, AZ. I don’t think I have ever been so moved by the beauty of the little boys chorus who sounded like angels. I haven’t been able to return at Christmas time to hear them again, but this year I was sent a DVD of the performance and I am entranced all over, again. So, in one way, I can thank COVID for making it possible for me to see this wonderful Christmas performance.

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  22. We were going for walks every afternoon until it got too dark to walk when I got home. Now we go hiking on the weekends and explore various trails in the area with the dog.

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  23. I remember that Gardens Aglow scene from Yule Log Murder. We have a botanical garden here that usually has an amazing display. I don’t think they are doing anything this year, for obvious reasons. A friend took her dad to a drive-through display Saturday. They enjoyed it after being cooped up so much recently.

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  24. Hi , Thank you for sharing the Beautiful photos, I loved seeing them. Our town had our annual Christmas parade this year, people could watch it from their vehicles , not the same, but it was nice.

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  25. I liked the original house, chimney and two staircases. Not sure I like the new windows and doors to a new balcony, but at least it is being saved. It is gorgeous. We cannot believe that we get excited about an RT–road trip –that just takes us around the area just to get out of the house or go to McDonald’s for a Senior Happy Meal–Deluxe Quarter Pounder with cheese, though the last two weren’t very good. The dog knows RT and loves it. I love your books.= and characters though I have never been to Maine. Someday.

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  26. What a beautiful house! There are quite a few drive-thru light shows around here and the neighborhoods seem to be decorated more this year. I’m looking forward to checking them out closer to Christmas.

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  27. It was nice to read everyone’s comments about how their towns are handling things differently in times of Covid. The one thing I read that was going on around here was one of the church’s was having their service over a speaker system in the parking lot and everyone stays in their cars.

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  28. I’m in Auburn, ME and every year there’s a big parade of lights where the kids go see Santa. This year is a reverse parade of lights – home owners are lighting up their houses, the town in making a map, and then Santa will drive by your house! Kids still get to see Santa, but safely! We’re excited for it. Also considering a trip to Gardens Aglow.

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  29. Beautiful old house…….But on the re-do, something seems off. Like part of the house is leaning…. Perhaps it’s just that my depth perception is off though…..

    Lovely light show. Must be fun to walk thru there when it’s allowed.

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  30. I so enjoyed reading the clambake mysteries last year and am eagerly awaiting number 9. When I say last year I mean that literally. In July 2019 I attended the clambake on Cabbage Island. I wondered into the gift shop looking for a souvenir. I discovered a display of your books and the lovely Bennie Alice told me that the writer lived in Boothbay Harbor and I bought number 5, “Iced Under” as my souvenir. I read all of the rest in the series by early November and waited impatiently until the end of the year for number 8.

    I hope to visit the Botanical Gardens on a future visit. I looked it up after reading, “The Yulelog Murder.” It appears to be a place to visit in any season. The photos your husband took are beautiful.

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  31. I haven’t lived in my current location for long so I can’t tell what is the usual Christmas cheer from new things that people might be doing to make up for the grief of 2020. I will say that our town still had a Christmas parade and it was lots of fun to watch 🙂

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