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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Modern Gypsies of England

Friday, November 15th, 2013

My dream is to forever have my home in Maine, but to spend a month every year living in other places I love – where I want to be a local not a tourist even if for an abbreviated period of time. New Orleans, Nashville, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Chicago, Detroit, Charleston…just think of the adventures. I would spend my time in these places exploring their unique agricultural worlds, sipping coffee in cafes, beer in dive bars, and enjoying the local culture.

I used to be a bit nomadic – moving around within towns and from town to town – coast to coast – without giving any of it much thought. When I finally signed the papers on my house I got hives – yes, all over my back no kidding. For years my best friend listened to me focus on which city I was moving to next – the lineup prior to my handing over said signed documents – went I believe in this order San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. She (and apologies, I’ve surely written about this here before) convinced me to at least consider buying a cute farmhouse in Maine (a big part of my – I want to live somewhere else was I didn’t think I could afford the home I’d want – surprise). As I grew older what seemed fun in my 20s didn’t seem safe in my 30s. Move to Seattle without a job lined up? No, probably not the best idea.

So, it is with mixed emotions – one of wanting to join and one of wanting a home where I can collect books on shelves and take a warm bath –   I follow the subculture movement of gypsies in places like Stonhenge, England. The movement originated in the 1970s with events like the month-long Stonehenge Free Festival. In the last two decades, gypsy families have settled down and live in tents, tipis, and yurts. Modern gypsies use solar power and mobile phones and take jobs (aside from carpentry).

Vermont Weekend Getaway

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

A few pics from my weekend getaway to Vermont. So needed this!!

Charlie’s tool board

The mill where Shackleton Thomas is located in Bridgewater, VT. I  hope to add this table designed by Charlie Shackleton to my dining room next year. In the meantime, treated myself to a custom bed tray…can’t wait to share pics – it’s gorgeous.

Miranda’s vases, she sent the rest off to the United Nations for their auction later this month!! She cooks with stone. Probably one of the smartest, nicest, most talented persons I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. She’s a blessing and with Charlie magical.

Charlie made his famous pizza dough (he also makes granola, marmalade, bread…). They invited a few really interesting people over. We made pizzas with all the toppings (anchovies, chicken, pepper, olives, basil, cheeses, salami, tomatoes, mushrooms). Best pizza – cooked in a wood fired  oven built into the stone chimney. A-mazing.

View from morning walk. Everywhere I turned all weekend were gorgeous views.

Proper breakfast at an old fishing lodge. Toast, eggs, pancakes, pure maple syrup, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes (trick is to slice them so thin, I want to try at home), creamed beef (only item I didn’t try), homemade donuts (so good), and fruit salad.

We worked off a bit of breakfast by canoeing around the lake. It had been years since I rowed and now I want to find a way to do it as often as I can weather permitting. Great exercise for the mind and arms. The view of the lake, foliage..was inspiring. How cool is this tree covered in mushrooms. It was the only one like it in the woods and the shrooms were huge traveling all the way up the tree.

Me w/ Miranda.

Hope you all had as wonderful a weekend.

Bar Harbor Mornings

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

The last two mornings were spent waking up and hiking the Beehive trail in Acadia National Park. The park’s site describes it accurately as a hike through woods to exposed cliffs, where there are iron rungs on the ledges. I love it, holding onto rocks and rungs swinging up and about I feel like a kid! Note, it really is for people who are in shape and/or healthy. Go for something less, shall we say, vertical if you are intimidated by heights and can’t jog a mile. After a reasonably quick hike (up and down takes me about 40 minutes including a rest at the top to take in the incredible view) I went to my favorite breakfast place in Bar Harbor…Cafe This Way. Delicious food, nice servers, books lined up everywhere, a casual atmosphere…it provides the perfect transition to the day.

Paris, France or Simply Somewhere Across the Atlantic

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Check out this post Oh Happy Day blogger Jordan Ferney did on Snippet & Ink about Paris. Maybe it’s a sign (I believe in them, do you??) that I should go back there early next year. I’m torn between Paris (with an overnight detour to Italy for a few days) and Israel. It’s been too long since I traveled abroad, so here it is in writing, After two years of domestic travel I’m finally trekking back across the Atlantic one way or another in the first quarter of 2014. Has to happen, as much for my mental health as the food.

What’s Up?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

What I’ve been up to in a nutshell…

I have been branching out beyond bees to write about real food for the Huffington Post.  Did my first raising a backyard chicken flock talk at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine (more to come this summer at a much larger venue, details forthcoming). Picked up some  ”I Wanna Be Sedated” and “I Fought the Law” nail polish from Deborah Lippman’s Punk Rock collection. Purchased airline tickets for my fall trip to Nashville, TN to visit friends (CANNOT WAIT!!!). Went to Nonesuch Oysters farm w/ founder/owner Abigail Carroll and my friend Kate of the wonderful Portland, Maine blog The Blueberry Files. Saw a really good movie (sequel to “Red”) and an equally bad one (“42″).  Oh, yes, lovely…got so ill from the heat a couple weeks ago I almost went to the hospital. No fun that one.

Photo: Special Sunday Portland Press Herald Root post!! My time @ the 2013 Maine Grain Alliance Kneading Conference. Highlights: seeing friends, all the bread/baked goods, Richard Miscovich keynote (cannot wait for his book this fall) & the incredible always inspiring Sam Hayward. http://www.pressherald.com/blogs/theroot/217293741.html

Wrote about the 2013 Kneading Conference for my PPH blog “The Root” and had an incredible time listening to chef Sam Hayward talk about iconic foods of Northern New England. Richard Miscovich’s keynote was insightful, I recommend taking advantage of any opportunity to hear him speak!

Photo: Hey folks. My friend Samantha Hoyt Lindgren started this super cool fiber project in Portland, Maine A Gathering of Stitches & I just signed up for Intro to Quilting (I know, right COOL!!). There are a few spaces left if you want to join in the fun. Vrylena Olney & Jacqueline Tung fyi...http://agatheringofstitches.com/quilting-classes/intro-to-modern-quilting-1

Signed up for a quilting class my friend SL is teaching as part of her new fiber project in Portland, Maine “A Gathering of Stitches.”


Photo: So excited Jessica Stammen is having me back to her lovely project The Maine for my Master Shots series. I'll be doing Q&A w/ my favorite persons from the international world of photography. Today's post is w/ someone I almost consider more of a historian. The incredibly gifted, courageous VII Photo Agency lensman Ron Haviv http://www.themaineblog.com/?p=7810

My friend JS has me back contributing to her lovely project The Maine in the form of my Master Shots series. I’m be doing Q&A w/ my favorite persons from the international world of photography. First post back was w/ someone I almost consider more of a historian. The incredibly gifted, courageous VII Photo Agency lensman Ron Haviv. Here’s a link. (Image Darfuri girls leave their camp to search for firewood. The journey will expose to danger of attack and rape. 2005 – Darfur, Sudan Ron Haviv-VII Photos)


The Naked Table Project

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

In this ever faster-moving world, a growing number of people want access to a simpler more sustainable way of life, in which traditions and connections are not disparate things. Furniture maker Charles Shackleton, co-founder of the Vermont based company ShackletonThomas, provides an antidote with “The Naked Table Project,” a series of weekend workshops where people make tables by hand from locally grown trees.

I was lucky enough to attend last weekend’s workshop in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Me sanding

Photographer Linda Walsh caught me goofing around.

Linda Ramsdell, owner of Claire’s Restaurant & Bar in Hardwick, which pioneered the community supported restaurant model. I helped Linda build the table for Claire’s. She’s amazing as is her restaurant!

Another beautiful shot by Linda Walsh, this one of Andrew Meyer who is one of the nicest, humblest human beings I’ve ever met. He is one of the founders of the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vermont. I’m inspired by his ability to put people together and find sustainable solutions to any variety of situations.

The first day was spent building tables and visiting a local farm and sugar bush, where there was a demonstration of oxen pulling a log from the woods.

The farmer’s garden is gorgeous!

Linda, Andrew Meyer (of Vermont Soy and Vermont Natural Coatings – the Naked Table Project uses their nontoxic whey-based finish in all their workshops), Charlie, and I signed the table. So exciting!!

The beautiful inn where I stayed in Greensboro, VT. Saturday night a few of us had dinner at a cottage on the edge of Caspian Lake. It was the quintessential summer experience. I hadn’t packed my swimsuit (duh!) so didn’t go in that night, but the next day went in a dress I garden in (brilliant suggestion by Charlie’s AMAZING wife Winky).

Charles Shackleton sitting on a Naked Table (photo by Jeremy Zietz, Creative Director Shackleton Thomas)

The second day, the food-loving crowd who enjoy knowing how their food is made and where it comes from gathered for a locavore community lunch with suppliers of the ingredients to celebrate the abundance of local food. The tables built the day before were linked end-to-end smack in the middle of a beautiful outdoor setting. The day’s menu was made of produce and meat sourced from local farms, bread from a nearby bakery, and cheese from a creamery located just down the road.

A beautiful photo by uber talented Jeremy Zietz of the locavore lunch.

Let’s Hang Out on Pinterest

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Pinterest is where I go when my wanderlust feels like it’s going to overtake me, the nomad in me calls for new stomping grounds, I need a solution for the garden (there’s always the practical vs. aesthetics situation), I want to daydream about renovating the bathroom and creating that marvelous pantry, and when looking at pretty things is all my mind needs to transition from work mode to relax mode. Here’s a link to my boards. Let’s hang out.

A few boards:

Stuff I Love (writing, lounging, Elvis, the Chicago Bears, flowers, lingerie, men on motorcycles, meteor showers, books)

Ink (I appreciate well placed, smartly done skin art)

Southern Roads, you will forever have my soul (Gone w/ the Wind, Johnny Cash, Garden & Gun)

Nomadic (the less I’m tied to the better off I am)

Wanderlust on Repeat

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

I love to travel. It’s the best way to learn more about the world we live in, about who we are as individuals. Everything about it is special to me. The packing (I’ll pull bags out of the closet and start dropping stuff in them a couple days before departing thinking about where I’ll be when I see those items next), lists (confirm the cat/chicken/house sitter, pack toiletries – because once I left my toiletry bag at home….sometimes things can get frantic trying to get everything crossed off), the voyage (!!), and the destination(s). The rental car experience is in fact the only aspect I loathe. Waiting in train stations means people watching, waiting in an airport equals reading and a drink and a long somewhat thorough exhale. I don’t prepare for trips the way I used to, which was purchasing guide books and creating a list (I love lists) of all the places to visit and things to do. Now I’ll read a couple articles and just go. There’s a bit of adventure in that and room for more extraordinary experiences. At least, that’s what I’ve found. Plus, more often than not I’m going somewhere I know someone and want to be open and available to their suggestions.

My next big trip is to Israel. I have a friend who lives there who’s having a baby (yay A!!) and as well as being someone I care for deeply and want to support (seeing her home), I’m also very much looking forward to having her introduce me to the food there. I’m going to eat anything and everything put in front of me. She’s an amazing baker! I will be surrounded by history as I wind my way through the streets into the markets of Jerusalem.

After that I’m going to fulfill a lifelong dream and rent an Airstream, because now you can!! Hmm, probably should clarify. Until recently, you could rent an Airstream and have it delivered to a campsite or some variation on that experience. What I want to do, and thanks to Airstream2GO now can….is rent one and pull that baby through the great American West. You rent a GMC Yukon Denali (a really nice car to drive) and the Airstream (from their Las Vegas or Los Angeles locations…they do plan to expand) and go. If you haven’t pulled a trailer before, they even have a brief training. During 13 magical days (at approximately $10,660 plus gas, food, airfare it better be “magical”) I’ll cruise from Las Vegas through Nevada, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.

For more of what I’m wanderlusting after check out my Pinterest page.

Week in Review

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Spring has arrived and is barreling through my life and house faster than Bo “Bandit” Darville.

The dogwood in bloom (this is all since last weekend’s rain).

The 1st Annual Chicken Coop Tour I’m organizing has this poster, beautifully designed by the wonderful Anne Anderson.

The bees are bringing pollen into the hive like crazy! First hive inspection will be in a couple weeks, and yes I’ll be posting pics and writing about what I find. (p.s. you can find my birds and bees posts over on The Maine as well.)

Somebody got a super sexy new septic system. The 1950s one was removed. The guy w/ the shovel in the photo is in his 70s, and not sure if you can tell but he had a cigarette hanging out of this mouth – this was around 7AM.

The gals were not nearly as impressed as I was with the installation of the septic system. They essentially clustered together inside the coop for two days while the workmen were here. They only ventured out when I was near. Guess they know I’m one protective mama?

Just a wee bit proud of the fact that I shot this cover!!! Story goes I was at The Spotted Cat in New Orleans listening to this fantastic jazz band w/ my friend Amanda last summer. Well, I posted the pics to this here blog and wouldn’t you know that amazing band found the pics and sent an email asking if they could use one of the images for the cover of their new album. Um, YES!! I haven’t stopped listening to the album since I got it (they sent me several copies, so sweet). This is right up there with one of the coolest experiences ever for me. (Here is one of my many love letters to New Orleans, one of the greatest places on the planet it gives me breath, happiness, let’s me raise my freak flag high, serves me the most delicious food & the most refreshing drinks, introduces me to exceptional people and keeps me smiling.)

Wrapped up volunteering (for now anyway) with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Southern Maine. Those kids are exceptional, they’ve lived more than I ever will, survived what no one should have to, and they are absolutely beautiful.  This was taken at an ice cream party I organized for them (my volunteering partner/amazing baking friend I. is having a baby = her talents were missed).

I published my first Local Grain Economy story (it’s a series of five pieces) and one on Maine Farmland Trust, a truly valuable organization preserving a way of life that’s near and dear to my heart and all our dining tables. *The blog is doing so well the paper is promoting it in the print edition. I could not ask for a better editor or outlet than A.M. at The Portland Press Herald.

It’s been a long few weeks and things are looking up. Life is good and full. I’m excited about all the wonderful things happening this summer, the amazing writing opportunities I continue to be presented with, the adventures including a trip back to Hardwick, VT. and some pretty cool stuff I’ve got in the works on the home front. Oh, dear readers thank you for joining me on this trip. ox

Caledonia Spirits and Road Trip to Vermont

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

A week ago about this time I was sitting on the back patio at the Lakeview Inn in Greensboro, Vermont reading books on foraging (for an upcoming post on my Portland Press Herald blog The Root) and getting a bit of sun. Cathy and Scott Donnelly, the trusting owners (who I have yet to meet) had left the place and a jar of Gummy Bears (do they know my not so secret obsession with that candy??) in my hands. I’d spent the past day and a half enjoying Hardwick and vicinity and was happy and relaxed.

Last fall, while having coffee with my friend SL we got to talking about bees (my friend A keeps his hives at her home), when an acquaintance of hers leaned over (it’s that kind of friendly coffee shop) and told us about this article he’d read recently on a guy in Vermont making vodka out of honey.  My interest peaked I went home and promptly Googled  the story. There it was…Caledonia Spirits & Winery, producers of handcrafted spirits including a vodka distilled from honey wine and gin made from local grains and flavored with local honey.   I don’t remember exactly how the next few weeks played out, but in a nutshell I decided it would be a good next story for me to write about for the Huffington Post (all things crossed, it will publish in May) so I reached out to the company and somehow got hooked up with Andrew Volk , Owner, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, Maine and a semi-official representative for Caledonia Spirits, who met me for coffee (I don’t know about you, but I get more done when drinking coffee) to talk about Caledonia’s unique place in the spirits world.  It was then/there that Andrew (who along with his lovely wife Briana, are two of my favorite people in Maine’s food/drink world) and I hatched the idea for what would become the first of the Hush, Hush Parties (see here and here). We’d bring Todd Hardie, the founder of Caledonia Spirits, to Portland, Maine for a house party at which Andrew could work his magic with Todd’s spirits and I could do the first of a couple interviews with Todd.

Todd Hardie is a gentle soul with a brilliant mind and a heck of a lot of energy. He’s an advocate for Vermont agriculture, a lifelong beekeeper, and graduate of Cornell Agriculture School.  When we met we talked about bees, sustainable beekeeping practices and the phenomenal amount of information a beekeeper is constantly trying to process to be responsible, Lewis Hill (a mentor to Todd and pioneer in Vermont’s plant nursery business), Hardwick (ag central in Vermont’s Caledonia County, which Todd seeing as a healthy and invigorating community chose as the base of his business), and how vodka is made (yours truly had no idea it could be made with anything other than potatoes).

By the time Todd left, I’d committed to return to Hardwick, VT (my third trip in a little over a year) for a tour of the distillery on the banks of the Lamoille River.

Fast forward to late April, when I pulled into Caledonia Spirits just as Todd and crew were unpacking from the day’s farmers’ market.  Todd gave me the basics on the art of distilling and  explained the distillation cuts – head (beginning, discarded), heart (what is drinkable), and tail (end, discarded). He explained it’s less chemistry than artistry and intuition. *My upcoming article in the Huffington Post will focus on Caledonia’s distillation process.

After a brief tour of the 10,000 square foot distillery, and look in on his hives, Todd and I climbed in his truck and bounded over to Vermont Soy,  an organic soy milk and tofu processing plant run by his good friend Andrew Meyer.  This is a person who looks at what his friends and neighbors are producing and if they have a byproduct tries to figure out how it can be turned into a value added product. Andrew’s business partner, Todd Pinkham, was taught how to craft authentic tasting soy foods by food functional Chinese scientist Dr. Guo., at the University of Vermont. Meyer and Pinkham share the noble belief in creating healthy food systems that support local economies and sustainable agriculture. I tasted almost everything and loved the soy puddings (look for “Soyummi” in orange or blue & white containers) and his brand new smoothies made with Coconut Milk so much I borrowed a cooler from Todd to cart some back till I could make sure the local Whole Foods Market carries them (note, Barbara and/or Shannon if you are reading this NUDGE NUDGE get anything/everything Vermont Soy in the cooler section please, pretty please w/ yummy stuff on top).

Since I had arrived late we moved quickly to get me situated at the inn before heading to Todd’s home he shares with Tanya, who should you be fortunate enough to be invited to a meal at her table accept basically just rearrange your entire schedule so you can sit there and eat her food. We ate (because I’m eating pork on very selective occasions now) an Asian inspired pulled pork Tanya made from a pig she and Todd had raised and had slaughtered on their property, along with a fresh salad made up of greens from Hardwick’s amazing Buffalo-Mountain Co-op. I had second helpings of both. Then, they invited me back for breakfast and sent me to the hotel with a large jar of honey.

Back at the ginormous inn (each room opens up to a new room, each worth of a spread in Country Living) I met up with a couple interns from the Cellars at Jasper Hill, who I thankfully found out were staying on the third floor = I would not be all alone in a country inn with all the doors unlocked.  Additional bonus of staying with super sweet interns from the place that makes my favorite cheese (Cabot Clothbound), turns out if you are nice one of them will bring you some cheese in the morning.  This combined with the eight hours of sleep I’d just gotten for the first time in months officially made it one of my favorite places on earth. p.s. no cell service, yay!!!

Post breakfast (pancakes, maple syrup produced by a family friend served in a gravy pitcher and bacon – my first pork bacon ever wow from their recently dearly departed pig), Todd and I were off.  Morning service at a country church in Craftsbury, a couple miles from Pete Johnson’s vegetable/greenhouse operation. The minister paraphrased Kurt Vonnegut, brought up gun violence in our culture, the death of Medgar Evers, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King being imprisoned in the Birmingham jail, and the idea of serving milk and Oreos in communion (hello, I liked this church). From there, a second cup of coffee at a terrific general store (in my opinion Vermont may safely lay claim to having the best general stores) where I found seed packets designed by kids and the entire Ben & Jerry’s ice cream collection of flavors, as well as my second cup of coffee for the day.

Fully caffeinated, we headed to Pete’s. Ben Hewitt, who wrote The Town That Food Saved (in my opinion, as important a read to anyone interested in local food systems as anything Michael Pollan has written), about the great strength’s of Hardwick’s food system (within a 10-mile radius of town you can find High Mowing Organic Seeds, Highfields Center for Composting, Claire’s (started as a community-supported restaurant), Jasper Hill and numerous vegetable farms including Pete’s Greens).  Here’s Ben’s first impression of Pete Johnson “He was wearing tall rubber Muck boots, dirty (and when I say “dirty,” I mean dirty) blue jeans, and a similarly soiled Carhartt jacket. His fly was down. His hair (dirty blond, of course) was unruly to an extreme that should have been impossible without the benefit of an open-cockpit airplane.” This is why I love Ben’s writing – it’s so descriptive and intelligently styled. Anyway, my first impression of Pete was after I’d childlike given some thought to grabbing onto one of any of his greenhouses and hanging on for fear someone would remove me. Give me a greenhouse and I’m a happy gal. Had the day not been so beautiful I might have fought harder.  His rows of greenhouses – they go and on and on, which is probably a good thing since his farm feeds several hundred people between the farm’s Good Eats CSA and booth at the local farmers’ market. Anyway, he was in his tractor and somehow when Todd first introduced him I didn’t realize who it was (mind full of coffee and greenhouses). A few minutes into conversation the bulb overhead turned on and I figured out who he was. Looking back I can see Ben’s description, but mine was simply of a person with a big passion for growing things and feeding people. It’s very easy for me to understand why someone would want to have his/her person in the dirt day in and out. My happiest days are when I’m filthy, carrying around chickens, gardening, and taking a break by the hives watching the honey bees bring pollen into the hive. Nothing compares.

We left Pete and his brother to deal with tractor issues and headed to Bar Hill, a 256-acre natural area owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and maintained by dedicated volunteers such as Todd Hardie. The vistas inspired novelist and environmentalist Wallace Stegner, who wrote about the view from Bar Hill in his popular novel Crossing to Safety.  Barr Hill is also featured on Caledonia Spirits labels.

After a quick drive by of Jasper Hill’s famous facilities I was on my own….to sit in the sun. Life just doesn’t get much better.

When I go back for an event this summer I’m shopping at Pete’s Greens farmstand and hiking Bar Hill. Then I’m going to sip gin and tonics made with Todd’s gin.

For more information on Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom I’d recommend the attractive and informative book Kingdom’s Bounty:  A Sustainable, Eclectic, Edible Guide to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom by Bethany M. Dunbar.

Here’s a link to a nice article in Edible Green Mountains on Caledonia Spirits.

Caledonia Spirits are available in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York (Manhattan, Hudson Valley, and Long Island), New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. You can also purchase them online in 32 states. From May through October, Caledonia Spirits has a booth at several farmers markets including Burlington and Montpelier. The distillery is open for tastings and tours Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm.