Category Archives: Food

A Very Happy Mother’s Day

In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, our eldest daughter Dee is in New York and couldn’t be with us. However, our youngest daughter Shannon and her husband Mike came on Friday and spent the night. Naturally, the dogs came, too, for the early Mother’s Day celebration.

What a treat to have them here. We had Chinese food followed by donuts for dessert. (I am a donut fiend, and I once wrote a piece called “Desperate for Donuts.”)

We spent quite a bit of time on the patio. Luckily, this spring the black flies—those biting scourges of the north—aren’t too bad. A real gift for Mother’s Day. Nothing like having a cloud of bloodthirsty insects swarming around your head to ruin a celebration.

That night, we played a cooperative board game called The Big Book of Madness.

We had a lot of fun with this game.

After playing The Big Book of Madness, we talked late into the night about all the things we love—books, games, movies, and television. It’s wonderful to have Shannon and Mike within driving distance of us. When they lived in North Carolina, we didn’t see them very often.

A sweet, sweet way to celebrate Mother’s Day early.





Too Darned Hot

For the past four or five days, the temperatures have been 90°F and very humid. With the heat index, it has felt closer to 100°F. Too darned hot. Is this really Maine in August?

It seems that it is.

This heat has knocked the stuffing out of me. (A Facebook friend described it as feeling depleted. Yes.) Our little air conditioner, whom we’ve named Eva, is simply not up to the task of keeping our home cool. The best we get with her is 80°. Better than 90°, I know, but not much of a relief. Strange to think that until a few years ago, we didn’t even need an air conditioner in our home in the woods. An attic fan did the trick.

But there have been a couple of bright spots.

Unlike me, the container plants seem to thrive in this heat and humidity.  I have never had such a burst of impatiens on my front steps.

The begonias look pretty darned good, too.

Then there are the tomatoes, “the jungle” as we call it. Lots of green tomatoes and enough ripe ones for a sandwich or a wrap at lunch.

Also, on Saturday, we had a visit from Shannon and Mike.

Along with their dogs, who were thrilled to see us, Shannon and Mike brought donuts—fresh, thick, and perfectly fried. I’m a fiend for donuts—I once wrote an essay called “Desperate for Donuts”— and these were oh so good. The half-donut in the picture  is the result of me not being able to wait and grabbing half before we had our lunch.

For readers in or near Tewksbury, Massachusetts, those delectable donuts came from Donna’s Donuts.

This week, the heat is supposed to break, and we’ve even been promised night temps in the lower 60s. Oh, yes, please! This Mainer really doesn’t like the temperature to go much above 80°, and my happy place is between 65° and 70°.

Well, I’ll have to adapt to this warming world. Soon Clif and I will be checking into heat pumps, which cool as well as provide heat.

Until then…

The Consolation of Tomato Sandwiches

Here we are at the end of August, traditionally one of Maine’s most beautiful months. Time was when the weather was hot—around 80°F—and dry during the day, yet cool enough for blankets at night. It seems this era has passed, and now we veer between a humid 100°F heat followed by a forty degree drop to 60°F. So disorienting, especially to an old timer like me who remembers how sweet August once was in northern New England. It fills me with such sadness to think that those days are probably gone for good, that future generations of Mainers will never know the glories of a Maine August when the weather was nearly perfect.

Fortunately, despite the unwelcome change in the weather, tomatoes still ripen in August in Maine. In my yard by the edge of the woods, I only get six hours of sun at most during the summer. But I have found a variety of tomatoes—Juliet—that actually grows well in part sun/part shade.

Here they are on the vine.

And here are these gems in a bowl.

Juliet is a grape tomato, firm yet sweet and tart, perfect for many uses—sauces, salads, on their own as a side, and, especially, for tomato sandwiches.

Southern readers would probably cry foul if I claimed tomato sandwiches were a Maine speciality. Therefore, I won’t do that. However, old-time Mainers are as keen on tomato sandwiches as they are, say, on blueberry pie or corn on the cob. Tomato sandwiches are definitely a thing in Maine in August and September.

Simplicity in itself, tomato sandwiches consist of three ingredients, garden-fresh tomatoes, bread, and mayonnaise. All right, there is a fourth ingredient if you are so inclined—salt.

Some folks like white bread, untoasted. I am not one of them. I want a good whole-grain bread, and I want it to be toasted, thank you very much.

As I was making this sandwich, Clif asked if I wanted lettuce on it, too. I gave him a pitying look that indicated he should know better. After all, Clif is from Maine. But alas he does not like raw tomatoes and is thus unfamiliar with the protocol of a proper tomato sandwich.

Clif tried to defend himself. “You would have lettuce on a BLT.”

Yes, you would, but a tomato sandwich is not a BLT, and Clif received another pitying look.

With tomato sandwiches, you have a perfect combination of crunch, sweet, tart, smooth, and salt. With such deliciousness, I can almost forgive the high heat and humidity that is now August in Maine.



Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow:

Michele, of Rabbit Patch Diary, writes movingly of her eldest granddaughter starting school and other big changes.

In Change is Hard, Dawn finds beauty close to home, despite Covid, a hurricane, and other shattering events in this country.

On Etikser, rain provides the windows with a dreamy palette.

On Thistles and Kiwi, small pleasures—food and flowers—are still to be had, despite the uptick in Covid cases in New Zealand.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, is inspired by a trio of seventy-year-old men.





A Feast for Fools

With the Delta Covid variant rearing its nasty, unwelcome head, our vacation last week was fairly restrained. The more we read about this ultra-contagious variant, the more cautious we have become. As cases soar around the country—even in Maine—this seems like the sensible and safe thing to do.

But we did squeeze in a few treats, and the last one on Saturday was especially fun, despite the weather being horribly hot and humid. With masks firmly in place, we went to Meridians Shop in Fairfield. Meridians is a store of delights that features wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, cracker, and nuts as well as other goodies. It’s even more of delight when you have $70 gift certificate. (Thank you, Rose & Steve!)

Into the basket went all kinds of goodies for a picnic at home. Because I am, ahem, more than a little food obsessed, it was a gleeful experience for me to choose rather expensive treats and not worry about the price. Beer, Brie, cashews, pecans, crackers, and chocolate all went into the basket. And cookies. Because what is a picnic without cookies?

Shopping done, we headed home straight into a bank of black clouds and a brief but thrilling storm. Thick flashes of lightening streaked across the entire sky. On the side of the road, the wind blew the Queen Anne’s lace back and forth, back and forth. The rain bucketed down so hard that we could barely see the car in front of us, but fortunately everyone drove slowly, and there were no accidents. Even with the windows closed, the sweet smell of rain on wet pavement came through.

It took us no more than five minutes to drive out of the storm. Within ten minutes, the rain had stopped and there were blue patches in the cloudy sky. The road was dry, and the Queen Anne’s lace was still. But a crack of thunder behind us reminded us that the weather gods have the last laugh.

When we got home, everything was wet, and eating outside was not an option. No matter! We would have a dining room picnic.

Here is an array of the treats we bought.

And a close-up of a beer that tickled Clif, who is from Bangor.

He especially liked the snappy slogan. After all, we think of Maine as north of north.

Apparently the beer was pretty tasty, too.

In fact, the whole feast was pretty tasty, a fine way to end our vacation week.


Nifty posts from some of the lovely blogs I follow

Note: Every week, it’s difficult to settle on six nifty posts from the many wonderful blogs I follow. This week, for some reason, was even harder. So many great posts. I could feature more than six, but lists that are too long tend to be daunting, and six seems like a good number. Anyway, here is but a brief sample of the terrific posts I read in the last week.

Yet again, Thistles and Kiwis dazzles us with food from fabulous Wellington, New Zealand. Am I jealous? You bet I am.

Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal features a fantastic way of potting up plants that doesn’t kill your back or knees.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, glories in cherry tomatoes.

On the Snail of Happiness, behold Speedweve! I am not sure I can adequately describe this device for mending sweaters. Read the post and marvel.

At Breezes at Dawn, a striking picture of red flowers against pines.

From mazeepuran, more luminous red.



Did We Leave Our Car Windows Open?

In the United States, last Sunday was Father’s Day, and to celebrate, Clif and I had went on an honest-to-God outing, something we haven’t done since March 2020, right before the pandemic closed everything down. First we went to the Colby College Art Museum in Waterville, where we saw an exhibit featuring prints of the U.S. artist Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844–June 14, 1926).

My first impression of the prints was that they were subtle to the point of being dull. But a closer look disabused me of that notion. A lesson, that’s for sure—first impressions are not always accurate. Cassatt was a master portraitist who focused on mothers and children. Cassatt’s ability to capture nuance and emotion shines forth even in her prints. I was utterly amazed that she could give them so much life.

Here is a short video featuring the curator of the exhibit.

After looking at the exhibit, we wandered around the rest of the museum. We found ourself on the lowest floor of the museum, where there were no windows, and we heard a loud rush of water that sounded suspiciously like rain. Could we really be hearing rain so far down?

It seems that we could. When we went upstairs and looked out a window, we saw the rain bucketing in sheets.

Clif asked, “Did we leave our car windows open?”

Yes, we did. The day was hot and humid, and we thought it would be more comfortable to leave the windows open. Boy, were we ever wrong.

The tempest didn’t last long, and when we went back to the car, there was water, water everywhere pooling inside the center console. Fortunately, I was able to mop up most of the water with napkins from the glove compartment.

But the cloth seats were soaked, and after two minutes of sitting on them, so were our backsides.

Nevertheless, onward we went to the second part of our outing—to Buen Apetito for Mexican food. Fortunately, we sat at a booth with plastic seats. As we squished our way in, I explained the situation to our server, who laughed and took it in stride.

“No worries!” she said.

With that settled, we started with a beer—Lunch not Miller Lite— for Clif and a margarita for me.

We shared an order of potato flautases, which I forget to take a picture of. And because it was Father’s Day weekend, we also split dessert, a deep-fried banana tortilla with scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

As we would say in Maine, wicked good.


Some Favorite Blog Posts from Friends Far and Near

Note: After marathon gardening for two months, I’m still not in the swing of things, But eventually each week I hope to feature more posts from snappy blogs I follow.

Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, received the gift of a kabocha  pumpkin, which is one I’ve never heard of.

From New Zealand, Thistles and Kiwis featured highlights of a trip to Auckland.



Yet Again Throwing Carbs to the Wind

In September and October, there is no finer place to be than Maine. The asters are in glorious bloom by the side of the road.

And many of the trees are a blaze of color. In autumn, I give thanks that I was born in Maine and have chosen to stay here.

Yesterday was Clif’s birthday and yet again we threw caution and carbs to the wind. We went to the Red Barn for some of their delicious fried seafood—scallops for Clif and shrimp for me. Very tasty.

I am sorry to report that masks and social distancing seemed to be optional, which meant we weren’t quite as relaxed as we might have been. Because we were outdoors, we weren’t terribly worried, but why oh why can’t people wear a mask when they pick up their orders and/or keep their damned distance?

An interesting sign of the times. The Barn has invested in bubbles for small groups to gather. They plan to install heaters so that outside eating can continue into November and December, when the glories of fall have passed and Maine weather is usually pretty brisk.

On their Facebook page, the Barn has stated that they have a cleaning regimen to make the bubbles safe for customers.

We’ll probably pass on using one of the bubbles. Our dietary regimen and our budget pretty much preclude eating out most of the time. But I know that many restaurants are struggling during this pandemic, and the bubbles might be a safe way to extend the Barn’s on-site dining during the pandemic.

On his birthday, Clif found something in our local grocery store that made him very happy—a low-carb beer that actually tastes good.

This is the trick for staying on a strict diet—finding substitutes that taste good so that you don’t feel deprived. Clif and I have managed to find many replacements for high-carb, high caloric treats. (Of course, we also eat lots of fruit and veggies and other healthy food.)

I just ordered a tin of chocolate mint tea in the hopes that it might satisfy my sweet tooth (teeth?).

Stay tuned.

And if any of you have suggestions, please chime in.



An Odd but Fruitful Fourth

Saturday was the Fourth of July. As Wikipedia puts it, the Fourth is a day, “commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776.” As I’m sure most of you know, it is a national holiday.

For Clif and Me, it was the oddest Fourth of July we have ever had. Usually, we host a gathering of family and friends on our patio, and Clif makes his legendary grilled bread. But thanks to Covid-19, no family and friends this year and no grilled bread.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years, the weather has been beastly on the Fourth, very hot and very humid. This year, of course, the weather was absolutely perfect—sunny but not too hot and low humidity.

At around 2:00, Clif and I took to the patio and had grilled Beyond Burgers, a tasty vegetarian substitute for hamburgers. The weather was so fine that we stayed on the patio for the rest of the afternoon.

We talked at great length about food, and how we can eat better to enhance our health. Ever since the pandemic started, both Clif and I have been aware that not only are we at risk because of age but also because of health issues. Clif has type 2 diabetes, and I am overweight.

I have been working diligently at losing weight and am having success. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike five mornings a week, and I’m happy to report that my creaky knees are not as creaky.

On the Fourth, Clif decided it was time to get serious  about controlling his carbohydrate (carb) intake. A friend of ours who has struggled with type 2 diabetes for years is now facing the prospect of going on dialysis. Sobering, to say the least. And this really made Clif think about his own health, not just in this time of Covid-19 but afterward as well.

For the past year and a half, Clif and I have been vegetarians. This might be coming to an end as we add chicken and fish to our diet as we change to a low-carb regimen.  But strangely enough, being vegetarian has given us the courage and confidence to tackle low-carb eating. Giving up meat was not easy for us, but we did it,  and we radically changed the way we eat. Because of this, we know we can change the way we eat again.

Now, Clif is a computer guy, a geek, if you will. Because Clif couldn’t find an online tool for keeping track of carbs that worked the way he thought it should, his response was to create his own carb data base on his computer. The data base allows him to create his own list with net carb numbers and serving size. This makes it easy for Clif to keep track of his daily carb intake. He is aiming for 50 to 60 carbs a day, and yesterday Clif was able to do this and still have beer and nuts on the patio.

So onward, ho, to a new way of eating. One, we hope, that leads to better health.





First Lunch on the Patio

On Saturday, the weather was so fine—at least by Maine standards—that Clif and I had our first lunch on the patio. The temperature was about 65°F with a gentle breeze. For two winter-weary elders, it was warm enough for us to leave our jackets inside as we sat and ate.

Clif made potato pancakes for our lunch. In the picture, they look like regular pancakes, but they had a lovely mashed potato and Parmesan taste. We slathered them with butter and liberally sprinkled them with salt. Very tasty indeed. Especially when eaten on the patio.

As we ate, we were treated to all manner of fluttering birds and their spring songs. The wary goldfinches, cheeping loudly, clustered in a big cedar as they waited for us to leave.

But this bird was a little braver. (I’m thinking it’s a flycatcher. Eliza, what do you think?)

And the mourning dove felt perfectly comfortable patrolling for spilled seeds not far from where we sat.

Watching over everything was the backyard Spirit of the Woods.

I know. It’s really a dead tree that should come down before it falls where we don’t want it to fall. But I will be sorry when the tree no longer stands. Not only will we lose the wood spirit, but the birds will lose a place to hunt for tidbits.

But there. For several years, Clif and I have talked about taking that tree down, and still it stands. I am hoping the tree will be there for several more years.

After lunch, I worked on removing leaves from the beds in the front yard. Why is it that outside work is more satisfying than inside housework? It probably has something to with the sun and the sky and the birds, none of which are as present when you are inside.

Later on during the weekend, thanks to technology, I visited with my daughters and my son-in-law, and much of the talk was about politics and the coronavirus.

I also “attended” Rassemblement, a yearly gathering of Franco-American artists, writers, and creatives. Usually it is held at the University of Maine at Orono, but in this time of the coronavirus, it was held virtually.

The theme of this year’s gathering was legacy. This is from the Franco American Programs website: “The dictionary definition of legacy is, ‘Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past.’ As Franco Americans, what was handed down to us? And how does this gift act as both an impetus to create and as a restriction on our creations? What are we handing down to those who come after us? What was and is our legacy?”

Someone—ahem!—might have brought up that one of the legacies of Franco-Americans is that it was a patriarchal ethnic group, with an unhealthy separation of men and women. A spirited discussion ensued.

But more about that later.






A Nugget of Gold in My Freezer

On Saturday, I delivered a birthday package to the little boy next door. Inside was a toy dinosaur. The boy is crazy about all things dinosaur, and he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. Or at least he did the last time I saw him, several months ago. With his mother’s permission, I tucked the package in the family mailbox across the street from their house. As I walked home, I was treated to a bird symphony of spring songs. What a delight!

As I listened the birds’ sweet songs, it seemed to me that things were much the way they have always been in April, with Spring slowly tiptoeing onto our road, into our yard. An illusion, I know. The coronavirus is ripping around the world, leaving death and misery in its wake.

But still. In my back garden bright green shoots of irises and daylilies are emerging.

They are joined by the dark red leaves of evening primroses, which tend to be hogs and need thinning every year. Good thing the yellow flowers are so pretty. I will bring some of the cast-off plants to the birthday boy’s mother.  Last year she said she would like evening primroses for her garden. I can leave a couple of pots at the end of her driveway. (This is the same neighbor who brings eggs and won’t take any payment for them.)

With weather that is sunny and somewhat warm, I long to be out, the first time I’ve felt this way since last fall. Soon it will be hard to sit at my desk and write as the outside calls to me. But I’ll do it. Now that the children are grown, writing is the center of my life. However, my yard and gardens are a close second, and come spring it is never easy to stay inside.

Yesterday, as I was digging around the diminishing supplies in my little chest freezer down cellar, I found a square of Parmesan. If my creaky knees had allowed, I would have jumped for joy. It was like finding a nugget of gold. As I beheld the cheese, one dish immediately came to mind: Spaghetti with fried eggs, introduced to me by the inimitable Mark Bittman.

Bittman describes this dish as something that you turn to when you don’t have much time. Or much in your larder. Readers, it is so much more than that. For someone like me—who loves eggs, olive oil, garlic, and pasta—spaghetti and fried eggs qualifies as an honest-to-gosh treat.

Here are some pictures illustrating the process, which takes no more than a half hour from beginning to end.

First, brown two crushed garlic cloves in olive oil.

Discard the cloves when they are brown and crack four eggs into the olive oil. Simmer the eggs in the oil just until the whites are slightly set but the yolks are not cooked.

Dump this glorious mixture into a pot of piping hot spaghetti and stir until the eggs are broken up. The hot spaghetti will finish cooking the eggs.

Et violà. Top with plenty of grated cheese and lots of pepper for a special meal on a day when you are unconcerned about calories.

Note: For some reason, I don’t have the heart to post coronovirus statistics and the news from afar. Maybe it’s because spring has finally arrived.

Who knows? But for now, anyway, it’s back to writing about life at our home in the woods.



Doing My Bit

During this time of staying at home—extreme even for a homebody like me—I have been doing a fair amount of ordering online—mostly food to fill in the gaps in my larder. However, there is a twenty-five pound bag of hulled sunflower seeds waiting on the porch. After all, the birds have to eat, too.

Regrettably, most of the packages come from away, as we Mainers would put it.

However, I have been doing my bit to support the local economy.

Item: Absolutely delicious chocolate from a local candy store called Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe. I’ve written about Scrummy’s before, and I am crazy about their handmade chocolates. Their store in Hallowell, a nearby town, is closed, but the owners are still making chocolates in their commercial kitchen. Those chocolates can be ordered online.

Here is what I ordered—Cashew & Toffee Chews and Salted Caramels.

Clif and I are having a little chocolate every day, trying to make the deliciousness last as long as possible. No doubt, we will order more when this batch is gone.

Item: Spring and Summer farm share from our own Farmer Kev.

It’s not all chocolate and bonbons here at our home in the woods. We also eat lots of fruit and veg. This year we will be well supplied by Farmer Kev, whose family we have known for a long time.

I’ve also written about Farmer Kev, who is an absolute wonder. In brief: The gardening bug bit Kevin when he was young—around twelve or thirteen—when he realized he had a passion for growing food. From his parents’ backyard, Kevin expanded to rented fields and finally to his very own farm. All by the time he was in his early thirties.

Here is a picture of a farm share from a past spring.

To say we are looking forward to Farmer Kev’s fresh, organic vegetables is a big, big understatement.  Clif and I are already dreaming about salads, tomatoes, and corn on the cob. Garlic, onion, and green beans.

We will also get a fall and winter share, which will pretty much take us through the year.

Hail chocolate, spring, and fresh vegetables!

Coronavirus News from Maine

From the Bangor Daily News

Making Whoopie

Rock’s Family Diner in Fort Kent has experienced a drop in revenue as people are staying home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

“Takeouts have been very slow,” said Peter Pinette, who owns Rock’s along with his wife, Sandra Pelletier Pinette.

Ryan Jandreau, a branch manager at Maine Savings Federal Credit Union in Portland, reached out to Sandra Pelletier Pinette — the mother of one of his high school classmates — hoping she would send him some of the baked goods he enjoyed while growing up.

Within a few days, Jandreau received a dozen of Rock’s homemade chocolate whoopie pies…

Jandreau posted a photo of the whoopie pies on his Facebook page, and before they knew it, the Pinettes were receiving requests from all over the country to ship out the popular Maine treats.

For readers unfamiliar with whoopie pies, here is a picture of delectable whoopie pies from the excellent Bluebird Bakery rather than from Rock’s. I have no doubt that Rock’s whoopie pies are delicious, too.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 827   (Monday’s numbers: 698 )

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 29   (Monday’s numbers: 19)

The News from All Over

I feel as though no national news story can compete with whoopie pies, so I’m only going to post the numbers.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 2,167,955

Global Deaths:  146,055