Weekend Reading

BM

What are your plans for the weekend? I’ve got a few social things with friends, some college and pro football to watch, and movies to be seen.  Have fun whatever you do/wherever you go.

This week’s Weekend Reading is all about the 72nd Golden Globes nominee announcements (woo hoo!!) and a tad about my love-hate relationship with blogs (I’ll hold off on my feelings about social media till a future date).

I used to read all kinds of blogs, but after visiting most of them I felt seriously flawed.

Thoughts I would have after a visit of this lifestyle blog or that one:

  • I wish I could traipse across that exotic location with that luggage filled with those gorgeous outfits. Pause. Hello greed, I just got back from Africa and Paris. And, wait, I love my luggage and my clothes are just fine.
  • Do I need more Birkenstocks? Pause. No (three pairs is enough and one more than it would take a Parisian woman to roll her perfectly made up eyes).
  • But, wait did I purchase the right Birkenstocks? Ugh, get over it.
  • Do I need more lipsticks? Um, no. I have one and two lip balms and my favorite thing in the world is – has always been – Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
  • Shouldn’t I be married with children. Shouldn’t my children be adorable and perfectly behaved and cute beyond all belief. Shouldn’t my husband be gorgeous with beard and artistic talent and know how to build cars and ….spiral….

So, I took a few steps back from blog-land to see the forest for the trees – what was so lacking in my life that I felt so inadequate after reading these sometimes rather silly – albeit beautiful – posts?

Not much. My life is far from perfect, but then whose isn’t?

I said c’mon people. Really? I know a thing or two about some you in real life and your lives are not that perfect. Where’s all the other stuff? Then I said c’mon to myself and figured out I am much more interested in real-life writing that applies to me and my imperfect lifestyle that, by the way, I happen to enjoy quite a bit.

Now, I stick to blogs written by friends and/or friends of friends, whose lives I genuinely care about and who keep it real – because they are real. Because, they are not editing out all the imperfections – rather they are embracing them. The world is not one big roll of the softest toilet paper; it is not a Photoshopped spread from Elle magazine. Life can be fun even when you are not wearing the perfectly color coordinated outfit while making cranberry muffins in a kitchen Martha might covet.

A few of those reads:

Ezra Pound Cake – by my favorite Nashville,TN writer/recipe gal and her uber talented graphic designer husband

Small Measure – by one of the sweetest/smartest ladies I know who happens to live in a place I really, really want to visit – Asheville, NC

Saipua – these Brooklyn, NY based florists who have a flower farm and keep sh#$ real! Oh, and they post really pretty pictures. It’s still okay to daydream about stuff – especially fields of flowers and flower arrangements.

The Blueberry Files – because she is a friend who lives in Maine and keeps her readers in the loop on all sorts of fun things to do, places to eat…She’s a Master Preserver and her skills hold me in awe.

Better Late Than Never

Having written the above, I still find good non-fiction online. Following are a few examples from the past week…

The Real Deal – What’s actually going on outside the photo San Francisco, CA based designer Emma Robertson posts on her Instagram account.

Person of the Year – What do you think??

The 2015 Golden Globe nominees. And the snubs I bet Kurt Sutter is giving two middle fingers up to the HFPA today for not acknowledging Sons of Anarchy and he should. Seriously, HFPA get over yourselves.

The 72nd Golden Globes — hosted for the third time by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler— will air on Jan. 11. on NBC. In my household the NFL playoffs take precedence over any other television, but I’ll be turning to the red carpet arrivals during commercials.

The films to see:

Best Motion Picture – Drama
“Boyhood”
“Foxcatcher”
“The Imitation Game”
“Selma”
“The Theory of Everything”

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
“Birdman”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Into the Woods”
“Pride”
“St. Vincent”  (photo at top of Bill Murray with the equally awesome Melissa McCarthy from the set of this film by director Theodore Melfi)

Christmas Trees

Last year I spontaneously decided to travel a few miles to the Balsam Ridge Christmas Tree Farm to pick out and have my tree cut down.

The farm is located at 140 Egypt Road in Raymond. The farm is open seven days a week: Monday thru Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to dusk. Choose & Cut Trees are $40.00 and Premium Pre-cut Balsam Fir trees are priced at $6.00/ft. ranging up to 10 ft. In the farm’s sugarhouse/gift shop, they offer their own homemade confections of maple butter, maple cream, candy, assorted maple coated nuts, maple syrup, and perhaps best of all maple cotton candy (produced with real maple sugar).

 Visitors can purchase hand-crafted wreaths and even help design them. Be sure to say hello to Sharon and Dewey Lloy for me!

For more info. contact the farm at (207) 655.4474 or visit their website here.

tree one

tree two

Making Holiday Candy with Felicia Buck in Aroostook County

candy buck home

candy hard cinnamon

candy hard boiling

candy hard breaking up

Can you believe we are already one week into December?!  Time for Americans to consume a ridiculous amount of desserts. These are not your everyday convenience store bought treats, but rarer homemade ones like fruitcake made by your great-aunt and fudge by a friend from farming country way up in northern Maine.

Felicia Buck is married to Brent, a 2nd generation potato farmer who has run Buck Farms with his two brothers since 1998. They live in Mapleton in the heart of Maine’s potato country.  Growing up Felicia’s father hated Christmas. “He loved the music and cooking,” she said. “He hated giving gifts, decorating, shopping, and did not want to do Christmas cards. He grew up very poor, so they did not have a lot and Christmas didn’t mean the same when you could not give gifts.” Her mother loved Christmas, and because Felicia’s father liked the food part, Felicia said her mother always made sure there were all kinds of treats. “If there was a school thing we’d make the sugar cookies, the hard candy, go around caroling and deliver food to the neighbors,” she said. “Now a days people don’t do that as much.”

With the help of her friends Darcey, Kelly, Bethany, and Heather she has created a new holiday tradition making irresistible treats.  For the past five years, Felicia has opened up her home for a day of candy making.  Last year I joined the group’s sugariest and had a ball.

The following recipes from Felicia (Hubbard) Buck are meant for you to enjoy in private (that’s right!) or share with your co-workers or family. Fa la la la la, la la la la… sugar rush here we come!!!

Hard CandyLorAnn Oils Regular Batch
**You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
¾ cup water
1 tsp LorAnn Gourmet Flavoring (flavor selection here online and you might be able to find in a drug store or Walmart)
½ tsp liquid food coloring
Powdered sugar

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in 2-quart saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring. When syrup temperature reaches 260, add color. Do not stir; boiling action will incorporate color into syrup. Remove from heat at 300 or when drops of syrup form hard, brittle threads in cold water. After boiling action ceases, stir in flavoring. Avoid rising steam when stirring. Pour syrup into lightly oiled candy molds or only greased cookie sheet and score with knife to form bite-size pieces. When cool, break into pieces and dust with powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Will keep a few months if stored in an airtight container with confectioners sugar.

Felicia’s notes:
• If you want to create purple try mixing blue and red, but for a real purple you will need to buy purple food coloring.
• The flavors are intense, and when added to the pot it turns into a strong enough vapor that you will probably want to open a window or two.
• Use old cookie sheets you don’t care about as they will get scratched up. Mark the bottom of each “candy” pan with an “x” or store with holiday decorations so they are easy to find.
• Really butter the sheets or the candy will stick to them.
• If you can, take the sheet or molds into the garage or onto the porch where cool air will help facilitate the cutting process by making the candy cool and thus harden faster.
• Use a pizza cutter, not a knife, when first scoring during the cooling process.
• Dip the pizza cutter in butter so it will not stick.
• Simplify the powdered sugar process by having a bowl of confectioners sugar ready to toss the broken pieces into.
• If gifting and/or just for your own purposes, separate the different flavored candy into Ziploc bags – otherwise one flavor might take on another flavor. If this is not an issue for you, disregard.

candy turtles in making

Felicia’s Turtles
12 ounces (or smaller bag) of unwrapped soft caramels, cut in half
6 oz (about 1.5 cups) toasted pecan halves
5 ounce bag Hershey Kisses

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place pecan halves flat side down in rows. Place one (half) piece caramel on each. Cook six minutes at 350. Remove from oven and immediately place a Hershey Kiss on top of each. Let cool.

No Fail Chocolate Fudge from Felicia’s friend Heidi Currier who got it from a member of her church – Felicia’s daughters’ favorite holiday treat
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 Tbsp butter
1 2/3 cup sugar – Felicia prefers Domino vs. store brands
½ tsp salt
2 cups marshmallows
1 ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
½ cup nuts

Mix evaporated milk, butter, sugar, and salt in sauce pan and let boil for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Take away from the heat and add marshmallows. Stir until melted and then add chocolate bits and add nuts. Pour into 8 inch greased pan.
Put in fridge to harden so you can cut up. Will keep 2-3 weeks covered in fridge.

And, while you’re at it…homemade peanut butter cups – because the only thing that might be as good as nuts/chocolate and whiskey is chocolate and nuts (ground or not). **Recipe on card in last picture.

candy peanut butter cups

candy pb recipe

Photographer Friday: Jeff Bridges

It’s Friday, I am a longtime Chicago Bears fan, and where I am in Maine anyway it is pretty chilly, so I figured we could all use something humorous this morning. Jeff Bridges is best known for being an actor, but he is also a photographer. He grew up on movie sets and has spent most of his adult life on them, so it seems reasonable all that creativity would have rubbed off on him in more ways than one.

In 1997 he produced a book for members of the crew of The Big Lebowski. I had just arrived in Los Angeles at the time and a friend on the film gifted me a copy. It’s a keeper. Sure I love the film and the Dude, and don’t even get me started on how awesome Steve Buscemi is, but for me it was one more welcome to Hollywood. Oh man did I love my years there and all the opportunities to work with incredibly talented and cool people. I never worked with Bridges, but from what I have heard and read he was/is a class act. There are a few of them and he is a reminder of the good ones on screen and off. He made 5,000 copies of The Big Lebowski book with his own money and distributed it to everyone who worked on the film. Bridges took pictures between takes on the set and what he chose to snap shows his knack for storytelling and humor.

In the introduction to his book Pictures, published in 2003 and now out of print, Bridges wrote about his camera of choice:

The Widelux is a fickle mistress; its viewfinder isn’t accurate, and there’s no manual focus, so it has an arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in all my work — a lack of preciousness that makes things more human and honest, a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment and to let go of the result. Getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.

Following are a few of Bridges’s images from The Big Lebowski book. Oh Dude!!

big l cover

ethan coen

dude selfie

Weekend Reading

On Thursdays I’ll be posting information about programs and events coming up, links to interesting and fun articles, and shout outs to some of my favorite people. A little reading for when you can find/create quiet moments to read and learn about stuff  I am excited about. Welcome to the first DM Weekend Reading post. ox

tree three

Want to learn more about botany, composting, extending the season and how to best grow apples and berries? Apply for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer training offered this winter and spring. 14 weekly sessions. After completing training, participants are required to return 40 hours of volunteer work in select community garden projects. Cost is $220 and limited scholarships are available. More information is online here.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is currently accepting applications for their 2015 Journey Farmer Program. The Journey Farmer Program is a two-year program for beginning farmers who are in the first few years of running their own farming enterprise in Vermont. The program is largely shaped by the farming interests and goals of the Journey Farmers, and enables aspiring new farmers to advance their farming skills and experiences, along with being a part of a learning community of other aspiring farmers and farmer mentors. Applications and resumes are due by December 15. If you have any questions regarding the program or application contact Rachel Fussell, Education Coordinator, at rachel@nofavt.org. **For farmers in Maine, check out the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s website for information on farm apprenticeships and their Journeyperson program.

My friend John Goodman has a show called “HomeTown” opening tomorrow tonight at the Miller Yezerski Gallery at 460 Harrison Avenue in Boston. Show will be up thru December 20. Opening reception 6-8PM
Regular gallery hours 11AM – 5:30PM. Tuesday – Saturday
About the show in John’s words :
HomeTown is a series of forty-five portraits that I produced on assignment for magazines beginning in the late 1970’s. Over the years I was given access to many of the extraordinary people who have helped define the unique character of this city.
The real challenge in portraiture is gaining your subject’s trust. My process always begins with a conversation that leads into a collaboration and then some sort of performance. The search is often intuitive and life-affirming with the goal being a truthful, enduring portrait.
For me these photographic encounters continually reinforce my commitment to photography.

And…

The opening reception for Rogue Foundation’s art project with children in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo is Saturday, December 13 from 3-6PM at 508 West 26th Street in New York City. Each creative project (they’ve been to Afghanistan and Haiti) brings art supplies to children in need, giving them an opportunity to create, be free, share and heal.

Wagenia child

Better Late Than Never (a list of links to articles that already ran/posted, but thanks to the ever staying power of the Internet will be up for a while).

Thanksgiving recipes The New York Times reported are Googled most often in each state. Mainers like pumpkin whoopie pie, something I have yet to see or taste.

How to make a fancy crudités platter.  A few years ago I began passing up cookie trays in preference of those with fresh veggies at parties. Making a tray of cut up vegetables attractive is a wee bit harder than one might think.

Avocado breakfast recipes, because we all know how much I love avocadoes

Bath rituals from Garance Dore. My friend Abigail just gifted me some of her Maine Sea Salt Scrub, so I’ll be using that this weekend!

And, in all my geeked out Star Wars galaxy far far away self …a link to the new film’s trailer and hey what if Wes Anderson directed the Star Wars VII The Force Awakens trailer?  As I told my friend Shannon, who had as of yesterday not seen the trailer because she thinks it will make the 12 month wait we have to endure to see the film that much harder, hey at least we’ve got one more Hobbit film coming up and then of course there are the Star Wars (original three only!) and Tolkien film movie marathons when really in dire straights. Seriously folks, the one thing I might actually stand in line more than an hour for – the premier of the new Star Wars movie. #cannotwaitstarwars if it weren’t too long to be hashtagable.

my ac bandana at gos

Link Love (shout outs to my some of my favorite peeps)

A Gathering of Stitches – a making space for fiber and textile craftspeople. You’ll find me there starting in January w/ my friend Heather. We’re making quilts. Samantha who runs the place is a force of talented and inspiring nature. Check out the calendar for cool ways to spend some of your winter hours. I rented a desk there last winter before my first trip to Africa and made an Alabama Chanin bandana and learned to use a sewing machine (gotta happen if I want to finish a quilt).

Ayumi Horie, potter extraordinaire, is holding a holiday pottery shop on Sunday, December 7 starting at 6PM. I want one of her bowls!!

Wary Meyers. I’m so proud of these two!! I’ve got some of Linda and John’s soaps and candles and love them. Finally a soap that smells wonderful and does not disintegrate. My favorite is the Beachy Coconut Glycerin Soap, price $14.  I’ve got two of their Mainely Manly candles in my living room. Here’s their description “Undertones of native balsam, burning pine, and primitive musk, with a soft, close whisper of patchouli on the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace.” Yup, that just about sums it up.

Top two pics by me from Maine and the DR Congo. Bottom pic by Samantha Lindgren in Maine.

Making a Gingerbread House with Patricia Moroz

gingerbread village

It so happens that I love Christmas. Especially here in Maine, where every coastal town is like I would imagine Santa’s workshop to be. The interior of Maine, well that’s a place along the lines of how I would picture the North Pole. I’m not interested in the holiday sales or the pastries, but I enjoy dressing up for holiday cocktail parties, the colorful balls of lights hanging outdoors, decorating my own tree – while sipping eggnog and watching classic holiday films, and sending out holiday cards.  I also really like gingerbread houses and here goes total honesty – snow globes. Is it terrible that one of my most treasured possessions I brought back from Paris is a snow globe with a polar bear in it purchased for $12 from a children’s shop? For the longest time I’ve wanted one and when I saw this one it seemed worth the trouble of transporting it (really it’s not that big – about the size of a baseball) back home in my luggage. Aren’t I a bit old? Oh, heck it’s just so fun. Now though, to gingerbread houses…I haven’t gone to the trouble of making my own, because I have been gifted one the last couple years by pro cake designer Patricia Moroz, owner of Starlight Custom Cakes in Rockport, Maine. In the future though I can definitely see making one, wouldn’t that be fun?

Moroz has been Mid-Coast Maine’s authority on gingerbread houses for years, creating 100 – 150 gingerbread houses annually for a sale to benefit the Rockport Garden Club and at one time decorating the Camden Opera House’s holiday window displays.

Last year she shared her tips on building a gingerbread house with me for a post when blogging for the Portland Press Herald. This year, I’m sharing her tips with you…

Gather the family, pour the eggnog, and get ready to unleash your inner Frank Lloyd Wright. No architecture degree needed. To design your house or barn, search online for free gingerbread house or dollhouse patterns. Also check out Pinterest for pictures of gingerbread houses (these could come in especially handing when decorating).

Day One – Bake the pieces for the house(s).

Gingerbread House Dough – Patricia Moroz of Starlight Custom Cakes http://www.starlightcustomcakes.com
Her gingerbread recipe is considered to be a “construction dough” which means that it is technically edible but is not one that you would really love to eat because it will be hard as stone.

Wet Ingredients:
¾ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup molasses
½ cup corn syrup (light or dark)
5 Tbsp warm water

Dry Ingredients
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
¾ cup granulated sugar

1. Combine the “wet” ingredients in a mixer bowl (using the paddle) and mix well for several minutes. Depending upon the humidity and type of mixer you are using, you may have to add a little extra water in order to give the dough a “Play Dough” like consistency. Just add one Tbsp at a time until you achieve this.
2. Mix together the “dry” ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Change mixer paddle and attach a dough hook. It is very important to use the dough hook when mixing wet and dry ingredients.
4. Add a few cups of dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix until all ingredients have been combined using the dough hook. Add small amounts of water (a Tbsp at a time) to dough mix, as needed. The dough should have the consistency of thick Play Dough. You should be able to roll a ball of dough in your hands without it sticking or without it being so dry that it is cracking. If you cannot easily roll out the cracks, then your dough is too dry and you need to add more water. If you add too much water, then you will need to use extra flour on your roller and hands when rolling the dough out.
5. Once mixed, place dough in a plastic bag and let sit on counter for an hour before rolling out to use.
6. Preheat oven to 325.
7. Roll dough onto parchment paper cut to fit the size of your baking pans and use a template of the house or shapes you wish to create. Remove excess dough from the parchment paper instead of lifting the gingerbread. Cut windows, doors, or any openings with a knife before putting the house pieces in the oven to cook.
8. Bake pieces at 325 F until edges are light brown (approximately 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, check after 10 minutes and then every few minutes). Even if the pieces are a little underdone, they will dry hard and be usable. Set aside until cool and ready for assembly and decorating
9. Baked pieces should air dry overnight (at least 24 hours) on parchment paper counter or table. Do not wrap in plastic or refrigerate.

Patricia’s Notes
This construction dough bakes exactly how it is placed into the oven and does not puff up like softer doughs, which is why the windows and cut outs come out so clean.

If you were making a barn, you may want to cut out a square shape in the upper level like many barns have for the loft area. All cut outs would happen before it is placed into the oven to be baked. You can also make doors and trim pieces etc. and bake them separately and glue to the large house pieces after all has been baked. Any impression that is left on the cutout pieces before they are baked will show up on the final piece so if you want a wood impression, you can simply use a knife to make light slices in the gingerbread or a brick pattern etc. People should use their imagination and look to see what they can find around the house.

Buy a cardboard circle for cheap at Walmart or a art supply store, or make one at home reusing thick cardboard. Glue two to each other and cover in foil. Put house on top and then decorate. *Just cut to size of house making.

gingerbread detail

Day Two – Decorate the house(s).

Royal Icing (the “glue” or “cement” that holds the pieces together)
2 lbs. Confectioners sugar
6 level Tbsp of meringue powder (egg white powder – can be found at Michaels Arts & Crafts or Walmart) *Patricia prefers Wilton
6 Tbsp water
Add food coloring if you want a color other than white.

Mix the ingredients for at least 10-15 minutes using a mixer. The longer you beat it, the thicker it gets. If too thick, add a Tbsp of water at a time till get consistency you want (a thick peanut butter consistency). Icing should be ready when it holds a peak.

Tips from Patricia Moroz on Creating a Gingerbread Farm
Fencing – One could use pretzels, crackers or actually cut strips of gingerbread and bake just like you would the actual house pieces.

Animals – Can be made of gingerbread. Use cutters or just trace a pattern. Cut the gingerbread about a quarter inch thick and then can be decorated after baked and attached to the board with royal icing. Most people cover the board after the house has been placed on it with royal icing. This would be a good time to sit the animals where you want them because they will dry into the icing and will never come off again! Cookie cutters can be found at baking stores online (e.g. Beryls, Pfeil). However, to save time and money, you can trace them from a book or image and cut them from a pattern without a cutter. One way for first timers to figure out how to make pigs, chickens, etc. is to use some clay books (e.g. Modeling Clay Animals: Easy-to-Follow Projects in Simple Steps by Bernadette Cuxart) as guides. They are available at craft stores and will show you step by step how to make a pig figure, chickens etc.

If someone wants very colorful animals and figures, they can always purchase a small container of fondant and color portions using cake coloring paste (hobby stores, Walmart, and the above mentioned online sources). If you buy white fondant, you can color by mixing with cake paste colors. Keep in mind individual pieces once shaped can be glued together just by using a dab of water, fondant stick to fondant with just a little moisture.

Animals can be attached against the house with a couple dots of royal icing behind each piece (animal) or put at the bottom and stick onto the board and it will stand up.

Trees – Patricia’s trees are made of chocolate and sugar, but to simplify things for the homemade/fun with the family experience just use sugar cones (ice cream cones) and waffle cones for larger trees. Cover with green icing, texture however you might want to, and glue on any decorations. When the base for the house is being covered with the royal icing, you can simply place the trees where you would like them into the royal icing and they will dry in place. Sift some snow onto them once they are dry.

Snow – When sifting confectioners sugar onto the house, be sure to use a fine sifter and wait until the royal icing is dry to the touch. If you use a sifter that has larger pores, it will dump the sugar on much to heavy. If there is too much in a spot, just use a soft paint brush to brush it to where you want it.

Storage
These houses are made for the season, but can keep for a number of years. Store in a cool dry place for them to last as long as possible but really, enjoy it for the season and make a new one the next season. Do not try to preserve with a spray lacquer. It will turn the white parts yellow and you never know when a child or someone will sneak by and break a little bit off for a nibble.

Do not use candy canes as part of the decoration if you want to keep the house. According to Patricia, as soon as they are opened and glued onto the house or base, they will start to melt within about two weeks or so.

Holiday Cards and USPS Forever stamps and p.s. sending and receiving mail in Africa

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend.  It’s good to be home, though I would have preferred my recent trip to Eastern Africa and Paris not have flown by so quickly. I’m still getting my bearings and figuring out what to make of being home and planning to write all about where I went and why early next year. Just need some time to process.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying those perfect chocolate chip salted cookies from Tandem Bakery, reading The New York Times (paper version!) over breakfast, watching football games (WOW WOW Auburn vs. Alabama and Packers vs. Pats) on TV, fires in the fireplace, the gals of Great Cluck Egg Farm (of course!) and making plans with friends.

Since I came home to the arrival of the holiday season I have also begun writing my holiday cards. Being the responsible lady I am with particular taste, and not knowing exactly when I’d return home, I had ordered a few boxes of Rifle Paper Company’s holiday cards to be waiting for me.  I love the company and their holiday cards are all I use.

This morning I went to the local post office to get stamps for said holiday cards and was a wee bit giddy to find stamps featuring four characters from the TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – the one from the 1950s narrated by Burl Ives.  I especially love Bumble, the kind misinterpreted monster. $9.80 for a sheet of 20.

Bumble

I also brought home a few sheets of the US Postal Service’s – for lack of better description – food lover stamps. As a gal who would prefer to cling to snail mail for personal correspondence, I’ll admit to being surprised it took me reading the December 2014 issue of Bon Appetit magazine over the weekend to bring me up to speed on this line of Forever stamps released back in September that are dedicated to five “celebrity chefs” including the “Grand Dame of Southern Cooking” the one and only beautiful Edna Lewis, teacher James Beard, and author Julia Child.

Illustrations by artist Jason Seiler (my guess is you’ve already seen his other work and it might have made you smile). Wondering how the USPS chose who to put on the sugar-free, fat-free, zero-calorie stamps (the USPS description)? Go here. $9.80 for a sheet of 20.

This is almost enough to make me like the USPS again.

celeb chefs

 

p.s. Sending and Receiving mail in Africa. In those countries where postal service exists (last I heard it was on hold in Somalia), the recipient is notified he/she has mail and picks it up at the place of business in town that doubles as a post office (restaurant/hotel…). I’m not entirely sure how the person is made aware he/she has mail or how long it takes to be notified, but my impression is it is more efficient than one might think (not sure what that means exactly). In cities residents are required to get a post box (no pushing mail through a slot) – which is how it is where I live and at least some other rural areas I know in the United States. There are few street names – even in parts of Kigali (Rwanda’s capital), and even fewer numbered houses (fyi, this can make wiring money and getting/giving directions a total nightmare) = your address is for the purposes of a package – your name/P.O. Box/town/country. Though, actually after writing that I will note almost every home I saw in Rwanda had a number painted on the exterior – so a system seems to be coming into order. To send a letter you need to visit an actual post office or the place doubling as it. For packages, best left to DHL or FedEx (unless a business in a major city, assume this will also require delivering said package or item to the business office).

Snapshots from Paris and a few Sourcebook updates

I’ve left Africa and made my way to Paris. I’m sitting in an American themed cafe called “LouLou” on St. Germain Blvd. Turns out as into Paris fashion as American women are, the Parisians are as infatuated with American culture. The vanilla milkshake here, well it just about rivals Duckfat’s in Portland, Maine. Across the street is a beautiful, rather large, old church. In an hour or so I’ll walk a block up to the metro and take a train to the Pigalle neighborhood, where I’ve rented an incredibly adorable apartment for the week. Five flights up, it has a full kitchen with an electric stove I am using to heat up soup at night that I pair with a simple green salad and a bountiful cheese plate (this is France after all).

Last night it rained again, so I went to the art house theatre the Cinema Etoile Pagode (check out photos here) and saw Woody Allen’s most recent film Magic in the Moonlight with the always dreamy Colin Firth. It was the perfect early evening and place to see this particular film (which is very good aside from the fact that the two main characters have zero romantic chemistry). Woody Allen loves Paris, but more than that Firth plays a magician from the Orient and the theatre’s decor is Japanese. The film going experience here is an unusual one – concessions are sold by a young woman with a tray of a few goodies outside the door to one of the two screening rooms and inside red blankets are piled up for patron’s warmth. You feel very much like you are in a wealthy Parisian’s living room.

A few years ago I wrote up a couple Sourcebooks for Paris – “Shop” and “Eat“….following are a few updates:
For Shopping – I’m still a fan of Repetto, and if ever there was a quintessential Parisian shoe brand this is it. Monoprix is as convenient as ever, in fact I’m impressed by the quality of their cheeses. The rest I’d chuck. Rather, I’d recommend LaMarthe for an elegant semi-luxury bag that’s French designed and European made – shop located on St. Germain Blvd. I happened to time it right and scored a bag for 50% off!!! Also, all the super lovely independently owned jewelry shops in the Marais and Pigalle neighborhoods. I’m not a department store gal and have zero interest in chains like H&M, but if that’s your thing you’ll find those along Rue de Rivoli and near Place de la Bastille.
For Eats – I didn’t go to any of the places I mentioned in that post this time, so here are a few new ones…. LouLou for good American fare at #90 St. Germain Blvd. in the Latin Quarter (further up the road are the far better known Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Fiore known for attracting intellectuals during the first part of the 20th century), Rose Bakery at #46, rue des Martyrs in Montmartre (while on that street check out all the food shops including #22 Sebastien Guard and get the tarte au citron),  and on Rue Montorgueil you will find a number of cafes great for people watching – just read the menu posted outside the seating area before committing.
For COFFEE! The following are places I went: Ten Belles – good if you are wandering the canals st Martin, Fragments (plenty of pastries!),  and my favorite Telescope (near the Louvre).  These are recommended by friends in Paris: Coutume – over by the Eiffel Tower, Loustic – near the Marais, and Cafeotheque (a different style to the others ) not too far from the Institut du Monde Arabe (a superb museum, and one of Time Magazine‘s 10 things to do in Paris).

OK, Pics from my time in Paris.

seine nd in distance day three

Walking along the Seine. This was taken on one of my rare sunny days here. When not walking the city’s beautifully aged streets, I’m riding the metro, which is super easy to navigate and ultra convenient!

Institut du Monde Arabe architect

Institut du Monde Arabe Mustaffa craftsman day three

Institut du Monde Arabe tea

Institut du Monde Arabe cookies

Institut du Monde Arabe tagine Lamb prunes and almonds

The Institut du Monde Arabe is a modern building dedicated to ancient times. I scored gold with the temporary exhibit dedicated to Moroccan culture (specifically Rabat and Casablanca) and went back twice for lunch and green tea. Three cheers for their lamb tagine and my new friend Mustafa who gifted me a good luck charm to carry with me during my travels in Africa. I returned to thank him and he turned it into a keychain. He studied woodworking for years in Morocco and as you can maybe tell from the picture I took – his feet are an integral part of the craft making process.

louvre outside day two

Louvre

Louvre two

The Louvre, a must as far as I’m concerned when in Paris. It’s closed Tuesday and all other days lines can be quite long so I recommend going early – as in get there by 9:30 a.m. A friend here told me lines are also short toward day’s end. It’s a huge museum so do what you can and leave the rest for another visit. Each time I go I see something new. This time I spent a couple hours with the Italian and Spanish paintings in the museum’s collection. A portion of that time I watched an older gentleman painting a replica of a portrait by Raffaello Sanzio of Jean d’Aragon. A guard explained the gentleman is an art student. He was incredible – a lot of people stopped and watched him, looked at his hands and palette and painting – and then at the painting he was copying and honestly you couldn’t – at least the untrained eye – see a difference. I got a couple sorry shots of his palette, but didn’t want to bother him so just left the experience as it was. Wish I could have photographed his hands, they were beautiful. Old, large, and worked. A working man’s hands, a painter’s hands.

day two Telescope more owls

day two Telescope

Telescope at 5 rue Villedo, a 5-10 minute walk from the Louvre. Nicholas the owner has a thing for owls so if you have one bring it and you might make a new friend in Paris. Thanks Will and Kathleen at Tandem for recommending!!

And my neighborhood – Pigalle/Montmartre…

haven living dining room

haven living room

Haven view

The dining room/living room in the apartment I’m renting and one of the views. I’ll be doing a whole blog post on my love affair with Haven in Paris. Not only have they provided me a beautiful, comfortable home away from home, they have taken such good care of me from the flowers and wine awaiting my arrival to moving small mountains so I could arrive earlier than expected.

Montmartre souvenir shops

Montmartre souvenir eiffel towers

Souvenir shop and mini Eiffel Towers near  the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. This time I ventured into the church and sat for a while with memories of Sunday mornings from years ago accompanying Madame Abad to services while a student in Strasbourg. There are beautiful cathedrals all over France and those she took me to as my host parent had service in Latin. I am as enamored now as I was then with the great architecture and historic significance.

Rose Bakery soup

Sebastien Gaudard Tarte Citron

Vegetable soup at Rose Bakery followed by a tarte au citron from Sebastien Gaudard.  ox

Snapshots from SW Uganda

Hi again from Africa. I have arrived at the end of my trip here. It flew by at lightening speed. One day you get up, do chores, have lunch with a friend at Tandem West, take the bus to Logan Airport, and a few weeks later you are packing to board a flight again. Man, in two weeks I will likely be baking a chocolate bourbon pecan pie in my kitchen in Maine for Thanksgiving.

I will never forget this year when I was fortunate enough to visit this extraordinary continent twice. Thanks to friends the chickens were looked after so I didn’t have to worry about them (though I really enjoyed pics sent of them) and was able to really take in this experience – the scary moments and all the fun ones.

These last few days are being spent in Kigali. I am actually writing from Café Neo, my favorite café here – best Rwandan coffee and bonus good Wi-Fi. It’s warm here so in the mornings I eat breakfast outside and in the afternoons am soaking in the sun. Among the things I will miss – the freshest pineapple and the best ever avocados.

Spent last week in Uganda. To those who recommended I go, thank you!! I have to go back and explore the country further. It never occurs to me how much I will miss a place until I leave it and as much as I will be happy to be home, I will miss Uganda – and Rwanda.

MLR approach fire flame tree view

MLR approach muddy road

MLR approach village boy on hill

In order to get to reach my first destination in Uganda – the Lake Mutanda Resort, I had to endure a drive on bumpy dirt roads along steep inclines through utter poverty and ultimately unbelievably breathtaking scenery. Along the roads, a daily procession of men and children leading herds of animals and women bearing enormous loads of produce on their heads. After a couple hours, my driver Nicholas (a gem) had us in another world. (see prior snapshot post w/ pics from the road)…

You round this curve and all of a sudden this valley folds out below with a scenic lake and the Virunga Mountain Range. It’s impossible to do justice with words or even photos to the extraordinarily beautiful view that you get from just above and at Lake Mutanda Resort. I’ve tried with these images.

MLR cabin int

MLR lunch pizza

MLR view

MLR view sunday morning

MLR playing with watercolors

The resort itself is a comfortable place with good food. I made fast work of the pizza served for lunch upon my arrival. Each cabin/tent has a porch. For a couple hours till this incredible storm rolled in (pics will be in longer post once home), I played with watercolors. A friend suggested I bring them and I am so glad. It had been years and the process was fun and helped me notice details in the landscape I probably otherwise would have missed.

village man in canoe goes by

A few dugout canoes with men setting, checking, and hauling in traps for crayfish quietly skimmed along the lake. My last day there (I spent two nights) I met one fisherman who let me take his picture (in longer post once home). This is a quick snapshot I got with my iPhone.

a BL lodge

ab BL lounge area

abc BL lunch monday arrival

abcd BL view from my cabin

BL cocoa on the porch

BL monkey on porch

After several hours on paved and dirt roads, we entered/exited/entered Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and arrived at Buhoma Lodge, my home for the next few days.

Titus, the assistant manager, and Frank, his assistant/waiter extraordinaire, welcomed me with a wet washcloth for my hands and a glass of fresh fruit juice. While my bags were magically whisked away to my cabin I was sat down in the loveliest lodge, which opens up to the forest, and a home-cooked meal was prepared for me. Afterwards I went to my cabin three flights of stairs up in the trees (incredible!!) where I took a hot shower and then enjoyed cocoa and chocolate chip cookies on the porch. Right then and there I fell in love with that resort and Uganda.

Every day it was a big breakfast, lunch, wine and snacks by an evening fire, and a four-course meal for dinner. Each meal was shared with new friends from San Diego, Minneapolis, Kampala (Uganda), Verona (Italy), and the U.K.

One morning while having coffee I watched L’Hoest’s Monkeys play on the cabin rooftop below and another one jumped on my porch once I had gone inside with a cup of coffee.

 ctbh Dr. Gladys with Miranda mug

ctph a clinic fecal samples

The primary reason I headed to Uganda was to meet with visionary Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, one of Africa’s leading veterinarians working to protect the endangered mountain gorillas from human diseases. She initiated Uganda Wildlife Authority’s first veterinary unit and founded Conservation Through Public Health, aimed at improving primary health care for humans and animals in and around Uganda’s protected forests. Because humans and gorillas have a similar enough genetic make-up (98.4%) there is a real risk of a tourist or more likely member of the local community passing on a viral or bacterial infection to a gorilla. Community areas border the park = there is no buffer zone. Dr. Gladys and CTPH with the help of UWA guides, trackers, and a large team of village based volunteers do everything from collect gorilla dung samples on a regular basis (so they can be proactive instead of reactive if a gorilla is sick) to educate communities about personal hygiene (a baby gorilla died from scabies passed on by locals). There is so much more to share on her, I’ll do a post. She is incredible. A hero to the gorillas and people around Bwindi!

ctph Buhoma school futbol

CTPH encouraged me to bring over school supplies and futbols to donate, so I did. The joy on those kids’ faces!!

d gorilla me with dr gladys

gorilla family member three

gorilla juvenile gorilla Nderema tbd mother went to M group

gorilla member tbd eating

After about four or five hours of hiking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, much of which is thick forest on steep muddy slopes, I had the incredibly humbling and magical experience of looking into a mountain gorilla’s gentle eyes. I still have to look at the photos to believe I was really there!

The gorilla family we “met” has been “habituated” – which means UWA staff have spent up to two years with the group on a daily basis getting them used to humans for tourism or research purposes. Gorillas are identified by their nose – I was told each nose is as unique as a human fingerprint. It is one way researchers identify them.

The group of eight trekkers I was with got to spend one hour near the Rushegura Mountain Gorilla Family. We shuffled around with the trackers who used their machetes to open up foliage so we could see the gorillas (I was told by Dr. Gladys the trackers use their machetes in a non-menacing way so as not to scare the gorillas). A-mazing!! Dr. Gladys joined us for the trek, which elevated the experience even further. I sent her pics to help identify which gorilla is which.

If you ever have the chance to go and trek – do!! Tourism = conservation!!

**Will post pics from Paris next week with an updated PARIS SOURCEBOOKS EAT and SHOP. Till then…Jusqu’a la semaine prochaine. Ox

Snapshots from Northern Rwanda and SW Uganda

a map

What I’ve been up to in a nutshell since the last post when I was heading north…The posts last week and this week are just snapshots of my experience here in Africa. There is so much more to share and I will once home. Please bear with me and the ample number of images per post. This is what happens when I can only post one or two days a week. Wi-Fi is far from reliable even in Kigali, especially for anything more than checking email (and in rural areas you’ve got it one minute and not for another day). Hey, all part of traveling in developing countries. So many benefits to outweigh the inconveniences!

A little over a week ago I headed north to Musanze in Rwanda and then Mutanda Lake area near Kisoro and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

Birks and purple flower petals after the storm

 I arrived in Musanze in Rwanda’s Northern Province during the tail end of a torrential downpour, during which rain came in through a crack in the passenger side window and the driver had about zero visibility (I’m still not sure how we didn’t end up on a curb or worse). The rain and wind had knocked petals from the bushes around the hotel onto the ground. 

Muhabura exterior

Muhabura Hotel  dinner main plate opt two

Muhabura dian fossey typewriter and my laptop

Muhabura Hotel bar

The Muhabura Hotel is like a living breathing memorial to Dian Fossey, the famed primatologist sent into the Virunga Mountains by the Louis Leakey in the 1960s. Her efforts to protect the mountain gorillas led to her murder in 1985. As much as her work, it was her friendship with Rosamund Carr that inspired me to reserve her old room – #12 – for a couple nights. Gaudence Rusingizandekwe “GoGo” inherited the hotel from her father Otto, who purchased it from the Belgians in the early 1960s. It’s been the hotel to stay and eat at since 1954. GoGo happened to be present when I arrived and after chatting briefly she requested I come by her office at 7PM to see her book.

That afternoon, I walked along the main road taking in some of the sun. I saw the compound for the foundation dedicated to continuing Dian Fossey’s work, and people on their way to and from the large open air market further in town.

After sorting out my stuff in the room, I had “Dinner Main Plate Option #2” and then saddled up to the bar for a Jack and Coke (after the day’s drive I needed it!) to sort images and catch some of the futbol games playing on the TV in the background.

Natl Geo article Dian Fossey

me ponytail D Fossey hair

At just before 7PM I arrived at GoGo’s office. You know those pinch me moments – this was one!! Her book ended up being an original of the National Geographic magazine issue featuring Dian Fossey on the cover with Bob Campbell’s pictures from the 1970s!! And…we talked about Diane Fossey’s good friend – Rosamond Carr  – who is one of my idols. This extraordinary woman with style and grace moved to Africa in the 1950s with her famed big-game hunting husband who was much older than her and long story short they separated and she went on to successfully run a series of flower farms and after the genocide open an orphanage. GoGo knew her and I got the impression it was rare for someone to want to talk about Carr – everyone is interested in Fossey. A few interesting tidbits – Fossey drove herself around in an old VW bus (Carr had a driver), Fossey’s hair she observed was a lot like mine (fuzzy and light brown)! – not like Carr’s more orderly curls, and that Fossey would visit Carr’s home an hour away when she needed to confide in someone about her love life (they both tended towards unavailable men) and problems on the mountain (poachers, the government…). Carr liked the hotel’s chef salad (I had it, and it was good) and chèvre brochette (traditional dish in Rwanda). That hour together made my visit!

Ubushobozi outside

Ubushobozi Seraphine stitching one

Ubushobozi stitching

I spent part of a day teaching stitching with some Alabama Chanin kits I brought over. I’ve been stitching AC pieces for several years and it was a blast showing the women how to do it! I’d taken a stitching project to the Congo with me in the spring and a Congolese woman thought it was amazing a “muzungu” (white person) was working with fabric so I thought why not bring my current project (a wrap) with me to Rwanda and teach some local women. Ubushobozi is a project founded by an American couple several years ago to teach women – primarily orphans and widows in undesirable circumstances ways to earn money. Some got it almost right away. I had them watch what I was doing and then got each of them started on a kit.

pyrethrum field and volcano in background

pyrethrum coop members

pyrethrum drying station three

One day, while in the Musanze area, I had the opportunity to visit the Rwanda Pyrethrum Program (Pyramid II) funded by USAID and SC Johnson A Family Company, managed by  The Borlaug Institute|UR-College of Agriculture at Texas A&M.  The goal of RPP is to establish a sustainable pyrethrum sector in Rwanda. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide extracted from the dried flowers of certain chrysanthemum varieties. November is Ugushyingo, a month of harvesting. I was thrilled to have the privilege of meeting members of the Abakundabireti cooperative and seeing the process.

Muhabura Hotel bfast African tea

Before heading north to Uganda, my last Rwandan breakfast for a bit – African tea (boiled milk with some tea for flavoring).

Muhabura Hotel volcano sign

Muhabura Hotel worker wanted photo taken lower i got she got for pic

volcanoes in the mist

I did not get to see any volcanoes while I was in the Hawaiian Islands working on a project years ago, so upon arriving in Musanze I was excited to see a couple! The landscape – at least further north in Rwanda and in Uganda is lush with bright flowers and sort of cultivated wildness I found very familiar to Oahu – at least from what I could see.  There is a sign outside the hotel showing the different volcanoes, but to see them from the hotel you actually have to – or I did anyhow – climb atop the compost pile in the back. A lovely young woman working at the hotel offered to show me where and then requested I take her photo – I kneel down when I shoot sometimes and so as I got lower so did she! 

UGANDA!!

road pic animals along the roads common sight

road pic farming view kisoro to bwindi rainstorm

Apologies these are not better quality, but I wanted to show you a couple scenes from the highway (note, here that means a two lane paved road). In Uganda you see farmers leading their herds along the roads – major, small – wherever and all day long everyday. The patchwork of fields covers every hillside where there is not protected forest or a smattering of mud brick dwellings with metal roofs.

Kisoro coffee pot cafe

Kisoro Uganda tea at Coffee Pot Cafe

Kisoro lunch coffee pot cafe little bit of Indian and Mexican and African and well french fries

Two photos of our tea break, because I’m emphasizing the Ugandan tea – thousands of acres of it there – everywhere you look and to think it was once forest. My driver Nicholas drank Coca Cola and ate cookies. Later he remarked how much I like my bottles of water (I tote a couple big ones everywhere) and asked me if I think his drinking soda is bad. Nope, but I said you’ve got quite the sweet tooth.

*Will try posting about Uganda – gorilla trekking…tomorrow. Thanks to Cafe Neo in Kigali for their Wi-Fi!!

about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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