Category Archives: What I’ve Been Reading Online

What I’ve Been Reading Online: “I Haven’t Always Been an Activist”

As I have written previously,  I follow many different kinds of blogs, but the trait they all share is creativity, which comes in many, many forms.  As far as I’m concerned, creativity is as essential to life as breathing. It is the spark that keeps us going and makes life worthwhile. But there. I’ve written about this before, too.

Because I am so frequently blown away by the creativity of my blog friends, from time to time I’m going to share a particular post that was especially inspiring. I do want to note that, in fact, I could be featuring posts every single day as so many terrific posts come my way. Now, if that isn’t something to grateful for, then I don’t know what is.

Today’s featured post is “I Haven’t Always Been an Activist” from Beth Clark’s blog Piecing It Together. Along with being a blog friend, Beth is also a personal friend—she and her husband live about an hour away from us—and I have known her for many years. Not only is she a good writer, but she also cooks, sews, knits, does a multitude of crafts, and takes lovely pictures. Those things alone would be fine examples of someone living a creative life, but Beth has currently added “activist” to the list.

In her post Beth chronicles the process of how she became an activist and how this did not happen overnight. It was a slow process, speeded up by the political events of the past six years. Spoiler alert: Here are Beth’s powerful concluding lines, written in reflection after calling an elected official: “I am not a robo-caller; I am not someone outside your legislative district; I am not being paid or coerced into calling your office. I am a woman and a voter and you cannot close your line to me. I will be heard. I am an activist.”

Wow seems like an inadequate response, but wow is what I feel. How proud I am to be her friend.

Here is the link to “I haven’t Always Been an Activist.”

Friday, February 21, 2014: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

Snow, snow, and more snow. There will be no drought problems in Maine this spring, and for this, I suppose, we must be grateful. In addition, the days are getting longer, and yesterday the backyard thermometer, always in shade, actually reached 50 degrees. The dog and I went outside and did a happy dance.

This weekend, I am going to a baby shower. The mother-to-be is the daughter of friends, and I have known her since she was a little girl. I love going to baby showers—new life on the way!—and although I always bring books for presents, I so enjoy seeing all the little clothes and the other baby things.

Happy weekend to all!


From Food & Wine: America’s best diners, and several of them are from Maine.

From the PBS Newshour: Picturing hunger in America.  “Hunger Free Colorado give cameras to food stamp recipients and asks them to chronicle what it’s like to be hungry in America.”

From Eating Well: A recipe for the slow cooker—Chinese Pork and vegetable hot pot.

From AlterNet: Seven foods once considered naughty are now on the nice list.

From the Portland Press Herald: The “Cronut”—part donut, part croissant—has finally come to Maine. As a donut lover, I am dubious about this concoction. As a foodie with a nearly insatiable sweet tooth, I can’t wait to try one.

From the blog Wolf it Down: Lots of interesting recipes, including this one for sweet potato cake.

February 14, 2014: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

img_5265The good news is, we didn’t lose our power. The bad news is, the snow is extremely heavy and thus hard to move. And there’s a lot of it at the little house in the big woods. Thanks goodness for Little Green, our electric snow-thrower. For years, Clif and I shoveled by hand the driveway and the backyard pathways, but no more. If Little Green ever stops working, we will buy a replacement. Pronto. Even with Little Green’s help, there is plenty to shovel, and I will be working at it off and on during the day. Nature’s gym! However, I must admit I’m more than a little “winter weary.”

Winter weary or not, Happy Valentine’s Day to all. I hope it is a sweet one with plenty of chocolate.

From NPR’s the salt: If you hate skim or low-fat milk, then here comes some good news. According to the salt, “two recent studies…conclude the consumption of whole fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat.”

From Mother Earth News: ‘Tis still the season for soup, and here’s a bean soup recipe that sounds warm and hearty.

From the Portland Press Herald: Tired of soup? If you’re in Portland, then head to the Daily Greens, a salad bar at the Public Market House.

From Eating Well: For Valentine’s Day or any other day—a recipe for Dark Chocolate Meringue Drops.

From the New York Times: In his column, Mark Bittman suggests that all restaurant servers should be page a real, non-tip adjusted wage.

From the Guardian: From a girl named Jack—how to save money on groceries.

Friday, February 7, 2014: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

A fine, cold day. The windows are frosted, and the snow in our yard still glitters. Today, there will be a walk with the dog in the woods, and I’ll bundle up with hat, head band, neck warmer, warm coat, leggings, and warm gloves. I’ll also bring my camera. The other day, I took a picture of bittersweet on snow, and it came out so well that I’m going to print it and see whether it will be a good photo for a card. During the course of the year, I send and give lots of cards made with photos I have taken. I have estimated that I give nearly 100 photo-cards in any given year. Birthdays and anniversaries. Sympathy cards. Thank-you cards. Notes just to say hi. Bundles of cards given as gifts. On Monday, I brought “flowers”— five note cards with pictures of flowers—to my friend Esther, who hasn’t been feeling well. So the moral of this story is that when I go out, I almost always bring my camera with me. You never know when you’re going to get a good picture.


From Sustainable America: Ten things to do with stale bread.

From Bill Moyers & Company: Amy B. Dean interviews Michael Pollan, who maintains our food is dishonestly priced.

From Eating Well: A recipe for clementine and five-spice chicken. Just reading the recipe made me hungry.

From the Good Shepherd Food-Bank’s blog: Heat or eat?

From Maine Today: Soup recipes from the blog Spoon & Shutter.

From Maine Magazine: Little BIGS, a bakery to try out in South Portland. My, oh my, they even sell donuts!

Friday, January 31: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

For the first time in a long while, I will not be writing “cold, cold, cold.” Today in central Maine, the weather is very fine for the end of January, and soon the dog and I will be going for a woods walk. I love the the woods in winter, the calm and the quiet. At least for me. For the creatures of the woods, I expect life is anything but calm. There is the constant search for food and for some, the constant avoidance of becoming food. That, of course, is the way of things. In the woods, the dog sniffs at all the enticing smells, and I take in the beauty, the dark trees against the snow. At home, at the end, there is always tea and fruit and a little something crunchy to go with it. Winter pleasures.


From the Portland Press Herald: A food pantry on SMCC to help its struggling students.

From BuzzFeed: ‘Tis the season for soup, and here’s a “definitive” ranking.

From NPR: Obese kindergarteners have a tendency to become obese adults.

From Eating Well: Need a break from soup? Here’s an almond-&-lemon-crusted fish recipe.

From the Guardian: Think you are hip because you eat quinoa? Well, hold onto your coolness because a new grain is coming to town, and that grain is teff.

Friday, January 24: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

The weather report in central Maine remains constant: Cold, cold, and cold. I take the dog out for two short walks rather then one long walk, and I still can’t wait to get home. I’m so bundled up that you can just call me “Laurie of the North.” I should have Clif take a picture of me and post it on this blog. I wear a hat, headband, neck-warmer, the heaviest coat I have, leggings, fleece pants, and big warm gloves. Even so, as I walk, I feel as though my face is frozen into a grimace. It must look like I’m smiling because when cars go by, drivers smile and wave at me. Or maybe they just think I’m nuts. Stay warm this weekend!


From Mother Jones: Michael Pollan’s take on the paleo diet.

From Eating Well: Mushrooms are not only delectable but if exposed to light, they also are rich in Vitamin D.

From NPR’s the salt: How food hubs are helping new farmers.

From Oxfam: The best and worst places to eat in the world. Who is number one? Not the United States but rather the Netherlands.

From the New York Times: Cooking for the cold. Melissa Clark’s lentil soup with lemon might just be on our menu next week.

From the Portland Press Herald: Anne Mahle’s recipes for no-knead bread using a sourdough starter.

From Salon: Journalist Sarah Gray lives on food stamps for a week. It’s a gimmick, of course, but Gray is a good writer, and there are lots of details about our food system in her piece.

Friday, January 17: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

This will be a quiet Martin Luther King weekend at home, where Clif and I will spend time working on our various projects, which include fixing the gate to our backyard, refurbishing the bike we found at the transfer station, getting photos ready for an upcoming exhibit at Railroad Square Cinema, and that perennial chore—decluttering. Naturally, the weather is supposed to be calm. Doesn’t it just figure that on a weekend when we are staying close to home, the roads will be clear and dry? Tonight, we will be going to a potluck at the home of Margy and Steve Knight. I will be bringing homemade crackers and a cranberry and hot-pepper jelly chutney on cream cheese. 


From NPR: Sometimes, it’s all right to play with your food.

From Eating Well: Six low-calorie soup recipes for these cold winter days.

From the Portland Press Herald: Let them eat pie—sample 50 pies in 3 hours. The event is Pies on Parade on January 26 in Rockland, Maine, and it’s a fundraiser for Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry.

From the Guardian: “Toast is trendy.” That’s right. Toast. It seems that toast bars are the new rage, and some of them charge $4 per slice.  Now, I am a toast lover from way back, but at those prices, I guess I’ll continue to make my own bread and my own toast.

From the New York Times and Mark Bittman: A video featuring The Scramble: A Simple Greek Lunch. I could have a plateful right now.

Friday, January 10, 2014: Bits and Bobs from the Internet

Cold, cold, cold, and more bad weather predicted for the weekend. So what’s new? Our weekend is chock-full of plans—going to the movies, pizza with friends, a trip to Shannon’s in South Portland so that we can measure for shelves in her kitchen. What will have to be canceled? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we dream of spring…

From the Portland Press Herald: Another great piece by Gillian Graham about hunger in Maine and two volunteers, Dick and Carol Ogden, who volunteer at the food pantry in Alfred, Maine. They also organize the monthly Good Shepherd Food Bank Senior Food Mobile event, where 12,000 pounds of food are given in 90 minutes. “If more people could see something like this, maybe hearts would soften a bit,” he [Dick] says.

From the New York Times: Paul Krugman’s take on the war on poverty. Believe it or not, there is some good news.

From the World Resources Institute: The Global Food Challenge Explained in 18 Graphs. There is a lot of information in this piece, but it’s presented very clearly,  The global food challenge is a huge one, made worse by the pressures of climate change.

From Huffington Post: “With the money they made in 2013 alone, the world’s richest people could have paid to feed the world’s hungry school kids 163 times over.”  So why don’t they? A little greed problem? A little empathy problem?

And, on a lighter note…

From Yahoo Food: Soy-Maple Broiled Tofu. I’ll definitely be trying this one at home.


Elders in Maine Struggling with Food Insecurity

Recently in the Portland Press Herald, there was an excellent piece about Jim and Nancy Pike, two Maine senior citizens who are struggling to stay afloat on their social security benefits, which come to about $15,000 a year. Normally, I would feature this on Friday, the day I reserve for posting interesting links, but the couple’s story was so compelling, so much a sign of our times, that I thought it deserved a post all on its own.

According to Gillian Graham’s article, Jim and Nancy Pike, who are 65 and 77 respectively, have worked hard at various jobs. She had a child daycare in her home for 30 years. He cut wood, took care of other people’s properties, and drove a truck for Meals on Wheels. They grew their own vegetables, cooked their own meals, made their own bread, and raised a big family. Nancy “worked until she was 59 and was forced to stop after she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.” Jim’s last job was as a handyman at a motel, and between what he earned and what Nancy received from Social Security, they were able to make ends meet. But then Jim had a heart attack and a stroke, and he was unable to work.

So now they have joined the ranks of food insecure seniors. As Nancy puts it in the article, “We’re broke before the end of the month.” Because the Pikes are at the poverty line, they do qualify for $66 a month in food stamps and are eligible for other programs, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors. (The latter is a federal program.) The Pikes also go to their local food pantry. She clips coupons, they shop the sales, and they don’t buy processed food. They get by, but just barely.

Naturally, my heart goes out to the Pikes, who must live on such a small amount of money. But what really floors me is the cuts Congress made in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income seniors. (Fortunately, the Pikes are still enrolled in this program.) In 2013, the program was reduced by nearly $5.2 million. This meant that 35 Mainers had to be cut from the program, and the year before 60 people were cut. Not surprisingly, there is a waiting list of 1,200 for this program.

How can Congress cut programs such as this? How can they justify reducing benefits to poor elders who are no longer able to work for a living? I would love to hear the explanations. On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe it would be such a load of bull that it would be hard to take.

One of the richest countries in the world can’t afford to support seniors who can no longer work? Really?

I don’t believe it. As the late, writer Tony Judt observed, “Ill Fares the Land.”


Crab Dip and Metamorphoses

img_4524Another busy weekend coming up. Is there any other kind this time of year? On Saturday, friends will be coming over for wine and appetizers. Along with the usual chit-chat, we will be celebrating the retirement of one of the friends. I plan to make a crab dip from a recipe I found in one of Gladys Taber’s books. The dip is made in a double boiler, and along with the crab it includes cream cheese, a bit of mayonnaise, wine, and Worcestershire sauce. This afternoon, I’ll be making homemade crackers to go with the crab dip.

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, we stocked up on wine that is very, very reasonably priced and quite good. The prices even go as low as $3.99, and I am not at all ashamed to serve this wine at gatherings. For those living on a modest budget, I highly recommend getting wine at Trader Joe’s. We have enough, I think, for the season, and that is one worry out of the way.

Planning ahead and organizing don’t come easily to me. However, over the years, I have certainly seen the benefits of both, and I make such an effort to be organized that I give the impression of naturally being that way. Therefore, friends are always shocked when I tell them I am not. This is a good example of the value of effort. I might never be as organized as many of my friends, but with effort, I have made great strides, and for the most part we don’t have too many moments of sheer chaos at the little house in the big woods. (We still have some, of course. When something doesn’t come naturally, effort will only take a person so far.)

On Sunday, we will be going north, to the University of Maine at Orono, to see our nephew Patrick in Mary Zimmerman’s play Metamorphoses, adapted from Ovid’s poem of the same name. The set will include a giant pool where much of the action takes place, and I am looking forward to seeing this play. As Patrick is our favorite nephew as well as our only nephew, we would go see him in anything, even something as humdrum as Arsenic and Old Lace. What a bonus when the play that he’s in turns out to be really interesting.

In between cooking, cleaning, and entertaining, there will be walks to the Narrows Pond with the dog. I’ll bring my camera. Sometimes I get good pictures, sometimes I don’t, but I never get tired of the view of all that water, gray on a day like today with a slight fizzle of snow coming down. As I’ve mentioned before, Monet had his water lilies and haystacks, and I have the Narrows.