Category Archives: Food

Pizza Palooza

On Wednesday, when the temperature was in the mid-90s but because of the humidity it felt like 100°, this family of pizza hounds went to Cushnoc Brewing Co. for a pizza palooza to celebrate our birthdays. Normally when we go out for pizza, we use a reasonable amount of restraint. We share a large pizza, and while Clif might get a beer, Dee and I usually get iced tea.

However, this was a birthday celebration for the three of us, so we pulled all the stops.

We started with spicy nuts,

and we all had special drinks.

Here’s a closer look at mine, a humdinger of a bloody Mary.

Then came the pizzas. We each ordered our own, and they were all beautifully baked.

Naturally, there were leftovers and lots of them. (Truth be told, I was pretty full after the drink and nuts.) Did we come prepared? You bet we did. Not only did we bring a cooler with two ice packs, but following the example of our friends Alice and Joel, we also brought containers from home for the leftover pizza.

After the pizza it was off to the movies, a perfect air-conditioned way to spend a very hot afternoon. We saw Alpha, a beautiful, soulful imagining of how wolves and humans bonded 20,000 years ago in Europe. It’s told through the point of view of an adolescent, Keda, who, in an accident, becomes separated from his tribe’s hunting party. He forms an unlikely and an uneasy alliance with a wolf, and together they travel across a harsh winter landscape to return to Keda’s village.

If you are a canid lover, this is a must-see movie. If you are not a canid lover, Alpha is still worth seeing at the biggest screen you can find. Imax, if possible. The cinematography is stunning—dazzling even—and so immersive it feels as though you are traveling with Keda and the wolf.

And something unexpected happened as I watched Keda and his tribe hunt buffaloes. As the small band of hunters stood there with their slender spears, they looked so vulnerable that I actually felt sympathy and tenderness toward them. It reminded me that we were not always a scourge on the planet, that once we were small and relatively weak in a harsh environment.

What comforts we have now in comparison to those who lived in the ice age. In a neat coincidence, Dee bought Clif and me an Instant Pot for our birthdays, which will make soup, among other foods, much easier to prepare. Looking forward to cooking with it.

After the movie and presents, we sat on the patio and had drinks. Beside us, the blue fountain rippled with falling water. Birds came to the feeders, as did squirrels. Crickets sang.

We all agreed that the patio was one of the finest places to be in late summer and a fitting end to a wonderful day.

 

 

 

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If There Are Chocolate Chip Cookies…

It can only mean one thing…the kids are visiting. In this case the kid is Dee, who is a cookie monster with a passion for chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, even though she will soon be forty-one, Dee is still a kid to me.)

Dee will be here for the whole week, and because she is a film buff as well as a cookie monster, we’ll be going to plenty of movies. The temp is supposed to hit the mid-90s this week with the dreaded high humidity, so going to air-conditioned movies will be the perfect thing to do. However, I have to admit I had hoped we were done with the high heat and humidity, which comes under the category of “No Fun at All.”

Back in the day… Well, not much point in mentioning what the old days were like, when late August in Maine was sheer delight. Anyway, this absurdly hot weather weather in northern New England certainly reinforces the need to reduce my carbon footprint.

On a happier note, we’ll also be celebrating birthdays—Dee’s is in October, and Clif’s and mine are in September. A little early, but we are all together so we will strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. Besides, this ties right in with my philosophy: celebrate early, celebrate often. This year won’t be the birthday palooza we had last year, when Dee turned forty, and I turned sixty. But though the celebration will be more modest, we’ll still have fun.

As Bill and Ted of the Excellent Adventures often said, “Party on, dudes!”

The Dream of the Fish and the Chips

Last night, I dreamed that Clif and I were making fish and chips. We seemed to be in the hall of the Methodist Church in town. You know how dreams are. People kept coming for our fish and chips, and I was afraid we were going to run out. But lo and behold! Suddenly there was plenty, and when our friends Alice and Joel came, we had enough to give them. I have no idea what the heck such a dream could mean, but it makes me giggle just to think about it.

Now on to other matters in the hinterland.

My birthday is right around the corner—in September—but my friend Barbara will be home in Pennsylvania by then. So we got together for tea and cookies, and she gave me a lovely tea towel.

“I thought of  you when I saw it,” she said.

“Oh, it’s so lovely. I don’t want to use it,” I replied.

Barbara gave me a stern look. “I gave the towel to you to be used.”

She’s right, of course. What’s the sense of having the towel and not using it? So here it is, covering rising bread dough, and this is how the tea towel  will be used from now on. But the tea towel is pretty, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you hate to use it?

And speaking of pretty…I am slowly, slowly coming around to begonias. They’re bright, they do well in part sun, part shade, which is the best my yard gets, and they last straight through until fall. In short, they are troopers. (I hope you noticed the little fairy hovering over them.)

Readers might recall that this was the year I succumbed to hostas. I had lost far too many flowers in the dry shade that is the reality of much of my yard. Finally I snapped, digging like a fiend, splitting up hostas I already had, and planting them wherever there was a hole left by a dead plant. And there were holes aplenty. Now, in late summer, I see the wisdom of all that mad activity in the spring. The front yard actually looks pretty good. There are no masses of flowers, but that’s pretty much true for the entire season. Most important, there are no ugly bare patches.

In the backyard, a plant has crept onto the patio, and Clif thinks it might be an evil creature from Doctor Who. But Clif is wrong. Instead, it is a cucumber, exploring and expanding. So far, I’ve only gotten a few cucumbers. I hope I get more before the frost comes.

This last shot might seem a little odd. This really is our kitchen wastebasket, and there is nothing distinguished about it. I included the wastebasket because in an effort to reduce trash and my carbon footprint, I had set a modest goal for myself. Instead of a bag of trash a week, I resolved to have a bag of trash every other week. I am happy to report that this goal has been met, chiefly by buying more in bulk, cooking more from scratch, and being careful about the packaged goods I do buy.

My next goal? A bag of trash every third week. That one will be harder to achieve.

Stay tuned!

 

A Very Maya Weekend

On Saturday and Sunday, Clif and I went to two events to sell our books—Maya and the Book of Everything and The Wave of Time.  A busy weekend but a good one.

On Saturday, we set up at the Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival, which was right in our own little town. How nice it was to only drive a mile to get to this event. On the other hand, the weather was far from nice. In the morning, it rained, and when the rain stopped a high wind blew through town. Here is the gray view from our booth.

Nevertheless, lots of people—bearing umbrellas—came to the art festival, and we sold quite a few books. So despite the bad weather, we did well.

The next day, Sunday, was a much better day, and off to Lewiston we went to the Sunday Indie Market, which had a fun, funky vibe.

Unfortunately, there was another big event in the area—a balloon festival—so not many people came to the Indie Market. No matter! We still had a good time, and we loved being a part of the Market.

We enjoyed being on the city sidewalk and hearing a clock in the distance chime at noon.

Clif at our tent

On one side of me was Courtney Schlacter from Quiet City Books, which is not far from where the Indie Market was held. Three copies of Maya and the Book of Everything soon will be in her store, and for the December Indie Market, we’ll have a pop-up table at Quiet City Books.

On the other side of us was Bella’s Best Sweets & Treats. Oh, my! I, of course, succumbed to a cupcake, and it was ever so good—moist, chocolatey, and filled with cream. And, yes, I did share it with Clif.

Nearby, to add to the fun, a folksy, bluesy band played.

Not a bad way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon! And kudos to the Indie Market group who, among others, is helping to revitalize Lewiston, a factory city that has been down in the heels for quite a while.

The Generosity of Friends

It’s been quite a week. For starters, I made some absolutely delicious  granola that is so good that I will probably never buy another box of cereal. (We like having cereal on hand, not only for breakfast but also for busy nights when you want something quick to eat.) In the past, I have made granola but have had only mediocre results.  Not so with this recipe, which came from the blog Thrifty Frugal Mom.  This granola recipe really is as easy and as forgiving as Thrifty Fugal Mom states in her blog. I didn’t have any wheat germ or coconut, so neither of these went into the mix. I only had quick-cooking oats, so no rolled oats went into the mix either. It didn’t matter. The granola was still very tasty, and I have been eating it for breakfast every morning. Next time, I will be sure to have rolled oats on hand. Also some dried cranberries. Anyway, this granola will now be a staple in our house, thus reducing the excessive packaging and cost that come with boxed cereal.

And speaking of packaging…On a recent trip to Hannaford Supermarket, I brought two of my own bags for green beans and popcorn. I wondered if the cashier would be nonplussed by the bags from home.  She was not  and even stated that these bags were much better than the ones the store provided. Of course, we had to pay a little extra as Hannaford doesn’t weigh containers from home, and my bags are heavier than the ones from the store. Also, my bags are still plastic and will eventually wear out. But I’ll be able to get many, many uses out of my bags, unlike the flimsy ones from Hannaford, which really are pretty much single use. And my bags aren’t that heavy. So, success!

And to make the week even finer came a perfect summer’s day with low humidity. This is the view across from the Winthrop Farmer’s Market, where we buy our corn on the cob. Note how blue the sky and water are.

That night we had a meal consisting solely of Maine vegetables. Nothing else was needed.

Now what, you might ask, could possibly top all the delights I have described above? The answer: A box and two bags of vegetables left on our porch by my friend Beth Clark. She had dropped them off so early that we didn’t even know she had come until we saw the bounty on our porch. Her husband John had picked the vegetables for us the day before, and we were dumbfounded by the abundance, which included cabbage, Swiss chard, tomatoes, eggplant, and yellow squash. Both Clif and I were incredibly touched by Beth and John’s wonderful generosity.

Here is a picture of a few of the beautiful vegetables we found on our porch this morning.

As we might say in Maine, a finest kind of week.

Part Three: Success!

The other day, with a few containers in our bag, we made a trip to the Gardiner Co-op to check out their bulk food section. We wanted  to see how easy it would be to use our own containers. We considered this a scouting trip and only brought a couple of containers.

We found that the Co-op has a small but practical bulk food section, with items such as rice, beans, and lentils, among other things. These are staples in our house, and we eat them, in one form or another, every week.

We needed chickpeas and black beans, and the clerk cheerfully weighed our empty containers before we filled them. We didn’t feel at all odd or as though we were asking him to do something that was an imposition. In fact, he acted as though it were a normal request. So all in all, we felt bringing our own containers was a smashing success, and we will definitely return to the Co-op. Here is what we came home with.

The big container with the black beans once held peanuts. (Yes, we do love peanuts.) As it turns out, this container is the perfect size for getting bulk food out from the bins without spilling anything on the floor. The jar that we used for chickpeas was a little too small, although Clif did avoid any spillage.

Although the peanut container is made of plastic, it is sturdy and fits easily in our cupboards. For now, at least, we will continue to buy peanuts in that packaging as we will be reusing the containers for bulk purchases. When we have enough of those containers, we will have to reassess how we buy peanuts.

A day after we went to the Gardiner Co-op, we went to our local Hannaford grocery store to find out about their bulk food. Their selection is not as practical as the Co-op’s and runs more toward treats—chocolate-covered peanuts, granola, and sesame sticks, to name a few.

However, I am a person who, ahem, loves treats, and let’s just say that of all the food that comes in wasteful, non-recyclable packaging, treats are at the top of the list. So I am totally into bulk treats.

But there was a bit of a snag at Hannaford. When I asked a clerk whether it was all right to bring in our own containers for bulk food, he hesitated before saying, “Yes, but we don’t weigh the packaging.” This means that you have to pay for the cost of the containers when the food is weighed.  H-m-m-m, I’ll have to think more about that one.

Finally, on a different but related subject, here is something that should go into the Green Hall of Fame. After going to the Gardiner Co-op, we met our friends Alice and Joel at a local Mexican Restaurant. They always order enough so that there is food leftover for a meal at home. And here is what they do.

They bring their own containers from home, including the cardboard ones for the condiments. And Alice assured me that she finds plenty of ways to use the little condiment containers.

Do we have awesome friends, or what?