Get Lost: My Hometown: Aroostook County

and view from my house

view from my house

Aroostook County, otherwise known as “the County” or “The Crown of Maine,” is the northernmost region of Maine and one of the places I most enjoy spending time. The thousands of acres of farmland offer a spectacular view anytime of the year and the families that farm them are good people – kind folks who open their homes to you offering homemade meals and friendship.  One such family are the Bucks, who I feel privileged to know. Felicia Buck, the glamorous matron, is a hard-working mother who values family above all else. Her cooking is hard to beat and the crews who have worked for her family’s farm (primarily potatoes – run by her husband and his family) have been blessed with her homemade cinnamon rolls and other baked treats through the years. Lucky people!

I met Felicia a few years ago while working on a potato farming story. We kept in touch and she invited me back up for a day of candy making with her and her friends and continues to keep me abreast of fun happenings in her neck of the woods. I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in this post.

How long have you lived in Aroostook County?

I have lived in Chapman, Maine for almost 23 years. I grew up in the town 5 miles from where I currently live (Castle Hill). My community is a tri-area community consisting of the 3 small towns of Mapleton, Chapman, and Castle Hill. Population around

What does it feel like in spring there?

I know that spring officially starts in March but in Aroostook County I don’t personally consider it spring until we can get on the ground planting our crops. That is the farmer’s wife coming out in me. I don’t particularly like the rainy season and mud, but I do like the smell of newly tilled soil ready to be planted. I also LOVE the scenery in my community as the flowers start blossoming and the trees start budding. Also the fields look so neat and tidy after they are planted and the crops start sprouting and your can see the rows in the fields. Spring is a very busy time of year in Aroostook County since we are a farming community. There is so much to be done and a short window of opportunity to achieve the goal. The fields are filled with tractors and farming equipment and the roads have large farm trucks loaded with potatoes or whatever crop is to be planted.

Not only are the farmers working hard but everyone is getting their lawns ready, flowers planted and gardens growing. It is almost like a fresh start.

What do you miss most about your hometown when you’re away?

When I am away from my hometown I miss the relaxed environment our community has and the peacefulness. There isn’t the traffic or the rush to get from one place to the other in my area. Most everyone is so friendly and you always bump into someone you know. Some may think that it isn’t easy to live where everyone knows each other, but I believe for the most part it is a blessing. There is always support and friendship in a community like mine.

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What would surprise a newcomer to your area?

I think that the biggest surprise to a new comer to my area would be the beauty. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world but I believe that we have one of the most beautiful. We have 4 DISTINCT seasons and all are truly breath taking with it’s fields, hills and forests.

Where are your favorite places to go with friends?

Here are a few of the places to eat in my community:
Boondocks in Fort Fairfield – They have delicious seafood and steak
Cafe Sopresso’s in Presque Isle – fine dining, lunch has unique sandwiches and the best lobster rolls around
Gram Russo’s in Presque Isle – delicious italian food
Rosella’s in Presque Isle – best homemade pizza. Homemade crust and homemade sauce. (sweet sauce, alfredo, buffalo, etc)
Irish Setter Pub in Presque Isle – pub style, burgers, nachos and a whole lot more
Long Lake Sporting Club in St. Agatha – beautiful view of the lake, leisure dining, delicious steak and seafood, french ployes, fun atmosphere

Here are some places and events we like to attend in our community:
Haystack Mountain in Mapleton – previoiusly a volcano , not a long hike to get to the top but breath taking views
Balloon Festival in Presque Isle – takes place in August, hot air balloons (about 10 – 15) take flight. You can pay for a ride, they have balloon glows at dawn and dust. It usually last a few days. Absolutely beautiful!
Maple Meadow Festival in Mapleton – takes place a weekend in June. A mixture of local merchants, antiques and demonstrations of antique farm equipment , horse drawn plows. Food, music
Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfileld – Middle of July. It is a celebration of farming in our community. It is a week long event. Many festivities, street dance, pageants, celebration of Farm Family with legislatures, mashed potato wrestling, cooking contests, LARGE parade and so much more.

Where do you go for weekend getaways?

If we were going away for the weekend we would generally go downstate to the coast, Bar Harbor or Old Orchard Beach. Somewhere very different from our hometown. It is always nice to experience something completely different than what you are use to. I must say that it is very nice to visit other places, but I have found that it also makes us appreciate what we have right around us in our own hometown.

Potato Blossom Festival

and Potato Blossom Festival

**All images provided by Felicia Buck. Top two – views from her home. Middle two images of her home. Bottom two of Potato Blossom Festival.

Bookends: My Early Spring Reading List

books march

All three are non-fiction.

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston. I read it and now I want to climb trees – big ones! In Northern California and Oregon, and the Skeleton Forest in Victoria, Australia, there are magical botanical worlds thirty stories up in giant trees. Most people driving or hiking through the Redwood Forests out west will stare up at the beautiful – enormous – trees and pass near the largest species of living trees without ever knowing it. This book is about those amateur and professional botanists and scientists who climb those ever so tall trees – their personal stories, and climbing adventures. I geeked out over the science and the gear and loved the joy Preston brought to his family and the reader with his learning to climb. Did you know there are facilities where you can learn to climb tall trees? Yup, and you better believe I’ve made note of them – that’s gotta happen!!

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is the tale of the 238-ton whaling ship the Essex that set sail from Nantucket in 1819 on a routine voyage to hunt whales and was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Does the story sound familiar? It should, it is the inspiration behind Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1852). It is a story full of superstition, horror, and survival – told my a master storyteller/researcher it is one of the most famous stories of the sea vs. man.

Ron Howard’s film based on the book, starring Chris Hemsworth is slotted for a December, 2015 release (don’t skip the book thinking you will see the movie and get the full story – there are a LOT of screenwriters attached to the picture and the release date was already moved once = could end up being a film you just want to watch on video. The book, however, is excellent. ).

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller (LOVED this book. Could not put down. Will read her Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness soon as I make my way through the to-read stack glaring at me from my bedside table.)
This beautiful book is Fuller’s first memoir (she has since written two more) – from 1972 to 1990, she grew up on several farms in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Malawi, and Zambia. She has an extraordinary story that demands an equally great storyteller, and thankfully she is that – she is a keen observer who has lived through seriously troubled times. From an early age she had to resilient and self-sufficient. Before and after the tragedies, there is racism, fear, wildness (her parents and Africa’s), dancing and humor and great beauty. This book matters. **If you love this book I strongly recommend Peter Godwin’s incredible Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa – also a memoir of growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It remains one of my favorite books.

**The Circle by Dave Eggers – I read it and cannot believe I am writing this, but do not recommend it. The semi-fictional book is essentially about a tech company (think Google/Facebook) taking over the world – this New Yorker review is (too) kind and accurate. His 2012 novel A Hologram for the King, was good, but not great. It’s his early work I am passionate about and strongly recommend.  Rumor has it Tom Hanks will star in the film being made based on the book. Now, that I want to see.

In my to-read stack:
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy by Kathryn Miles (a Maine author!!)

Get Lost: My Hometown: Portland, Oregon

food truck

This Get Lost post, just in time for the weekend, is from my friend Julie out in Portland, Oregon. We were roommates back in Los Angeles. She knows a phenomenal amount about music (walking encyclopedia on Dave Grohl!) so it makes complete sense she has chosen the other Portland to raise her family.

Get Lost: My Hometown: Portland, Oregon

How long have you lived in Portland, Oregon?
Since August 2006 (soon to be 9 years)

What drew you there?
The fact that everyone seemed environmentally aware and active and it is better place to raise our kid!

Where are you from originally?
Kettering, OH

What keeps you in the city now?
– 2nd run movie theaters that serve beer, wine and food
– High number of super small city blocks downtown and how easy it is to get
around
– World’s largest independent bookstore
– Portland is at the forefront of urban planning and green initiatives
– First major city to earn the League of American Bicycles Platinum award for bicycle friendliness and ranks high in the global rankings
– A day does not go by that I don’t see something off the wall that KEEPS PORTLAND WEIRD

What does it feel like in spring?
It is spring and everything is blossoming weeks earlier than expected. The temperature is about 60 to 70 daily and we hardly have had any rain.
You can feel the energy from everyone how grateful they are as they walk, bike and occupy every outside area of the city celebrating the weather!

What’s your best discovery about your city?
Most restaurant/carts/local fast food use organic and local food.

What would surprise a newcomer to your city?
How many people ride their bikes, walk or take public transportation. The amazing food, beer and neighborhoods and how close they are all together!

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Where are your favorite places to go with friends?
Laurelhurst Theatre, Voodoo Doughnuts, Tasty and Sons, Shopping on Hawthorn, Division, Mississippi, Alberta and SE 28th street, The Kennedy School to soak, watch a movie or eat, Edgefield to play golf and watch outdoor concerts in the summer, biking or walking the Esplanade, walk around downtown, walk around and shop NW 23rd, Sauvie Island anytime.

Where do you go for weekend getaways?
We camp or stay anywhere close to..Manzanita Beach, Cannon Beach, Hood River and Mt Hood (see below pic Julie took of me in front of Multnomah Falls – Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area on our way to Mt. Hood)

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Weekend Reading

pring

Give me S-P-R-I-N-G!!!

spring

Spring is coming folks!!! Temps are finally above freezing and there’s been some serious melting going on. I can see some of the raised beds (and the damage), there is an actual dirt path from the front steps to the driveway (no more snow boots!!), and the bees are out flying. The feathered gals have even been able to hang out behind the barn where a bit of the snow has cleared. Yay!!! Sunny days in the 30s and 40s I’ll take ‘em!

When being productive, I read a book or two a week. If you were to peruse my bookcases and the stacks of books around my house you would see I read in themes – sort of. One month I read everything I can find on caffeine, then fruit, then fishing stories, childhood memoirs (especially those set in East Africa), true crime (biker gangs anyone?), biographies, and travel books (especially those set in East Africa). Recently, I have been making more of an effort to learn about the Islamic World. More culture than politics, more history less extremists. For the past two weeks I have been trying to get through Edward W. Said’s academic Orientalism, while also rereading V. S. Naipaul’s brilliant A Bend in the River.

Truth be told, I put down the latter after reading the first 50 or so pages when I tried reading it a year ago. What the heck was wrong with me? The last few weeks Naipaul’s name kept coming up in books and I realized I had his Nobel prize winning novel in a stack upstairs. I started flipping through it and haven’t been able to stop.

So, that has been taking up a bulk of my reading time (along with two other – I cannot put down, look forward all day to reading) – books. But, really Said’s book is so dense. There is so much important information I find I have to reread what I read the day before just to “get it” – does that ever happen to you?

The preface took me three days. He’s writing about so much more than Israel and Palestine, and Western views of Islam. He writes about humanity – about what it means to live a humane existence.

Said writes “The book culture based on archival research as well as general principles of mind that once sustained humanism as a historical discipline have almost disappeared. Instead of reading in the real sense of the word, our students today are often distracted by the fragmented knowledge available on the internet and in the mass media.”

This weekend leave the computer and TV screens behind and let your hands find wood, wool, dirt, paper – something pure and of the earth.

 

Living Mindfully
This winter I began volunteering at The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing center in Portland, Maine, dedicated to the idea that children and young adults are natural storytellers. It is such a luxury to finally have the time to get back into volunteering and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The staff, kids!!, and my fellow volunteers are rays of sunshine. The programs original and thoughtful. Between you and me I feel a bit guilty – as though I am getting more out of volunteering than the kids I am supposed to be helping. My brain is challenged during each session as I learn more about creative writing (books, poetry…) and trying to find the most productive – positive – way to help the kids – who are smart and have these incredibly unique and colorful – and honest! – outlooks based on their experiences thus far.  Do you volunteer in your community? It is a great way to exercise – your mind – or if doing something outdoors e.g. gardening – your body – and a terrific way to meet people. Personally, I think a large part of our lives should be spent giving back – we take so much. Thoughts?

p.s.  I am taking a pause on the Photographer Friday posts till next winter. We’ll have plenty to focus on without them  – travel, maple syrup, gardening, food, the sea, books, Maine during her warmer months, etc. etc. *Now, that said I strongly encourage you to take a look at my friend Shoshannah White’s beautiful images of the sea. We have been friends for years and as I watch her body of work grow so does my admiration for her dedication, imagination, and eye for beauty.

Culinary Diplomacy

cooking making plantain bread

cooking cleaning rice

eating plantain

meal

This is the first post in a semi-regular series called Culinary Diplomacy. Sam Chapple-Sokol, a culinary diplomat, defines Culinary Diplomacy as  “the use of food and cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions and cooperation.” Sam was involved in the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership as an organizer for the Club of Chefs of Heads of State held in the U.S. in 2013. He, and a gentleman by the name of Paul Rockower (a gastronomist) are responsible for introducing me to the field.

At its best, food is about rituals and beliefs being passed on from generation to generation. People in places where there is a strong food culture (like Italy or Vietnam) identify with who they are and what they are greatly through food.

For last summer’s Kneading Conference,  I organized the panel “Culinary Diplomacy: Culture Defined Around the Table.” Through that process I learned a lot more about what Culinary Diplomacy means to different people – how food and drink have shaped some people’s perceptions of the world and defined how they look at foreign cultures.

(I hope to interview Sam and Paul, and each of the panelists from that KC event for this series).

You might think with a last name like “Kitchens” I know something about food. I do, but man is the road of learning long – and tasty – and I have miles and miles to travel.

Growing up my father traveled a lot to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He brought his love of the dishes he tried home and thus I grew up eating a lot of Asian and Lebanese food.  Somewhere along the way he introduced me to Ethiopian food, a favorite – do you know how amazing it is how few people in America realize what an extraordinary food culture there is Ethiopia?? DE-licious! Anyhow, I have always been aware of the beauty of different cultures, because – most likely – of food.

When you travel you realize how intimately related history, geography, and food are.

When I first visited Kinshasa and Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, two urbanized areas along the Congo River, I discovered them through food…

Last spring sitting close to the dirt, no more than 20 meters from the Congo River, sharing a home cooked meal with a Congolese fisherman I learned details about the region’s history you don’t find in news articles and books. I didn’t have an agenda, I was just curious about his life and about the food his wife was preparing. The yellow of the plantains, the crimson red palm oil in the stew, his hands, her strong arms, the glow of pride and love in his eyes when he looked at his wife and youngest son.  I was noticing everything around me and sharing in an extraordinarily unique and intimate experience created around eating.

When his wife lowered a basin of water and handed me a bar of soap I used it, passed it on, and washed my hands – wiping the water off on my pants. I followed the others, tearing off a piece of the thick chewy yellow bread and scooping up mouthfuls of the rich fish stew.

He saw my sincerity and welcomed my interest and let me “in” responding frankly to my questions. We were simply having a conversation while the meal was prepared. An everyday thing that takes place everywhere. I learned more about the region and his tribe in those hours than I could ever have imagined. The meal we ate with out hands was rich and unforgettable.

Honeybee Update

A few photographs from the super quick hive check.

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What you are seeing:

Honeybees can eat through their food stores (honey!) by early March if not sooner and will starve if not fed.  That’s where candyboards come in – a sugar syrup that is made into a fondant and sits inside the top of the hive. The idea being if the bees eat their way to the top (through the frames of honey) there’s the board. I had to start feeding a couple hives beginning of February because of the warm fall (the bees were active = eating).

p.s. from Brown’s Bee Farm:
“Candy boards can be a messy job in the kitchen. Boiling, checking temperatures, getting it just right so it will set up solid in your board, then you also have to pour that hot sticky liquid and contain it so it doesn’t end up on thef loor. For years now I have used a simple method that doesn’t require cooking. I mix one ounce of water to each pound of sugar, this gets the sugar damp. I put this damp sugar in my candy boards which are made from equipment I already have in my apiary, no need to purchase a specially designed board or to boil sugar and water.”

Weekend Reading and Photographer Friday

great cluck egg farm

all the snow

basil

buying the fabric

pillows

Just when I was beginning to think I had fallen victim to the magic troll-mirror, trapped in a snowy kingdom where everything seems ugly and depressing, the sun came out, it stopped snowing, and we had a couple days with temps above freezing. Even the gals of Great Cluck Egg Farm have seemed happier recently – they have been clucking away in the barn unable to romp around outside and somehow on the warmer days they seem more content – as if they know what I do – the snow is slowly very slowly melting. My Tuesday trip earlier this week to The Holy Donut for a Fresh Lemon Donut might have helped my mood a bit. So did the productive evening I had last week when I made a couple pillow covers from the brightly colored fabric I purchased in the Democratic Republic of Congo last spring. And then, there is the pot of basil on the dining room table by the one bouquet of pretty cut flowers I allow myself each week. Anything to brighten up the place!

Sunday I will visit the beehives out back and give them enough candyboard to keep them fed and presumably happy till they can begin foraging. The bees always cheer me up. They remind me of the promise of warmer weather and with it gardening and long days full of light spent hands and sometimes feet in the dirt. On the bright side, on one of the warmish days I cleared a path out to the hives (wish I had taken a photo of the feathered gals lined up in the doorway looking at me and all the snow anxiously wanting so badly to go out). No wading through thigh high snow to get to them. Yay!

sift

sift article

Better Late Than Never
King Arthur Flour introduced Sift Magazine this week. It has recipes (hot cross buns!), beautiful images, and an article by my friend Monica Michael Willis “At the Middle Eastern Table” – hello Pita Bread with Baba Ghanoush accompanied by a glass of Pomegranate Punch. I also love the article on Jeffrey Hamelman – Master Baker and a beekeeper!

Kenya

As someone who loves East Africa I encourage you to read this article in The New York Times on how international terror/travel warnings are ruining Kenya’s coastal tourism industry.  If you adhere to every warning the U.S. State Department puts out well you might just never go anywhere outside and maybe not even to Western Europe. American officials are fear mongers.  Nairobi has a reputation for security issues – robbery, petty theft, and armed carjacking – and the police for being corrupt. That said, if you use common sense (don’t flash money, dress like a tourist, walk around at night by yourself, or protect your money…in crowded markets) and/or travel with an established tour agency chances are you will be fine. I sure hope to go in the next year!  After that it would seem between Islamic militants and our own government it may not be that safe a place to travel to. Heck, while I was in Uganda folks were telling me how friends of theirs cancelled their safari tours to Kenya and Tanzania because of Ebola. Ebola! Seriously, that’s like a case being reported in Maine and someone from Africa not traveling to California because of it. Seriously.

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bookends

Living Mindfully
Looking for ways to give back? The book A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn shines a light on ways individuals and organizations can help transform lives. Biggest takeaway from the book – the idea of creating a giving circle that meets once every month to explore ways to make a difference – donating money, organizing an event, helping out at a local food bank… I met with a friend yesterday regarding starting one up – maybe combining it with a book club.

I have also approached a couple organizations – one in Rwanda, one in Uganda – about my holding a marketplace this summer or next holiday season – selling their beautiful handmade goods (think wooden bookends of giraffes or lions) and returning 100% of the profit to them to support their educational/craft… programs for women.

photo friday

Photographer Friday
Doris Ulmann beautifully and gracefully photographed the southeastern United States around the turn of the 19th century. Her images of the farmers’ wife, a fruit-stand owner, a blacksmith, grandmothers, grandfathers, and great-grandsons transport the viewer back in time into the rural valleys of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Get Lost: Learning a foreign language

fumbua cutting at market

getting braided

For some, like me, learning a foreign language is no easy task. I have found the idea of it exciting over and over – the times I tried learning Arabic (twice – a few years ago I signed up for back-to-back introductory courses – the second time I was so discouraged I stalled out midway) and French (university and more recently) and Spanish (high school) and Swahili (one of those Rosetta Stone kits for the car). I think I might have attempted Italian and maybe even some Russian in there, but not formally. I love the idea of speaking multiple languages, but have only been able to grasp phrases when on the ground – my success rate is 75% based on immersion. This post is about the why you should learn a foreign language – the benefits – and the how (what has worked for me – laying the foundation – the “other 25%”).

Sure English is pretty widely spoken, but while exploring a foreign city do you want to be that stereotype of an ugly American speaking loudly and slowly in E-N-G-L-I-S-H? Not me and I sure as heck don’t want to be anywhere near you.

Benefits:
1. Elevate your travel experience – Your ability to participate in what is happening around you – discovering a new culture and developing friendships – is reliant upon you at least knowing a few phrases of the local dialect.
2. Confidence booster – This is more while traveling – nothing makes me feel less comfortable than not knowing what the heck is being said to or around me in a language I do not understand. Imagine how much easier food shopping or even trinket shopping would be if you could use a few phrases.
3. Cool way to spend your time – Way better for you than that rerun of the reality show we could do all without (unless it is the British one about sewing or baking). Try it in the car, on the treadmill, sitting around the house.
4. Improve your employability – So many companies big and small are looking for folks who can speak Japanese, Spanish, Arabic. Speaking at least two languages shows your commitment to learning, to bettering yourself – what employer wouldn’t want that?
5. Improve your social life – Be that person who can communicate with the security guard at the museum, the taxi driver, the ivy league speaker, the award-winning photographer, the mountain climber, the restaurant owner, the friends visiting your sibling from Paris – the anyone who is bi-lingual.

Laying the foundation:
1. Purchase a dictionary of the language you want to learn. Do this no matter what. Preferably paperback, something you can carry with you. I ordered my French one through Longfellow.
2. If the CD thing works for you great, or maybe try a tutor – average price per hour might be around $30, or sign up for a class (sadly there are no foreign language learning opportunities for anyone not in school full-time in Maine).
3. Watch films or TV programs in the language you want to learn. Netflix has a lot of options.
Examples: French (Amelie, The Intouchables), Spanish (Strawberry and Chocolate, Y Tu Mama Tambien), Italian (Il Postino: The Postman), Russian (Burnt by the Sun – one of my all-time favorite films!!), Arabic (Paradise Now). If you are fortunate enough to live near an independent video shop where the staff are hip on foreign language films try there. Miramax Films released some very good French and Spanish films in the 1990s. I would recommend all or most of those.
4. If available listen to the radio station in the language you want to learn – easier if German, French, Spanish…
5. Ask around for someone who speaks the language you want to learn and see if he/she will be willing to meet you for an hour a week for a cup of coffee. This one is probably for those who already have a working knowledge of the language and want to brush up/preserve.

Pics by me from DR Congo (top), and Rwanda (bottom).

What do you think?

This isn’t a new series, just a question I might post on occasion – asking what do you think about something. A few weeks ago I got into a bit of a lengthy discussion with friends regarding some of the pros and mostly cons of Anthropologie. I know, right what’s the big deal about this chain? Well, lot’s – some details of which I cannot get into right here and now about how the board of directors of the company is advising and negatively effecting certain companies I respect(ed) taking them from small handmade influences to machine made factories of tchotchkes. It’s just how the world is today. Every day we lose battleground in the handmade world. People walk around talking about the environment and the importance of gluten-free baked goods (latter is lost on me!) while wearing garments made in China or worse. Some magazines talk about stitching parties, profile the beautiful buckle maker in Wyoming, the crafty guy in Tulsa…but a lot more tote the company line with ten perfect outfits for Sunday brunch brought to you by the Gap.

So, Anthropologie. We have one coming to Portland. Since their sister store Urban Outfitters arrived here over a year ago I have purchased one pair of sneakers there. That’s it. When I was in my 20s I was obsessed with their stuff, same with Anthropologie. While in Boston last week I ventured into the Anthropologie’s Newbury location and recounting what my friends had said about it – that they have a reputation for stealing ideas from independent craftspeople on Etsy for instance – I looked around and touched things. The glassware, the pottery it’s mostly cheap and has no –  as my friend Charlie would say – humanness. I would rather wait till I travel somewhere and invest in pieces made by local artists. The clothes are pretty expensive for what they are and look a lot better online than in person. I don’t think the interior decorators who tried to recreate an African setting in the shop – or the designers who put safari animals all over some clothes – have ever been to Africa. It was an idea of Africa, but about as accurate as a Tarzan film. The prints were nowhere near as bold or beautiful as those I saw in the DRC, Uganda, or Rwanda. …

But, here’s the thing –  I did find a pair of PJ pants on the sale rack I love – best fitting ever – and then gulp I paid full price for a dress. I really liked it, did not think the price was bad and at the time and now the purchases feel like a craving I fed. After exiting the shop, I walked out and called my friend S, one of the folks who had shared with me her strong anti-Anthropologie feelings, and said that is it for me. I will check out the Portland shop, but I would much rather support the independent stores with their incredible customer service like Bliss Boutique on Exchange Street.

The dress, my one and only Anthropologie purchase (I will pair with my tan Birkenstocks and ankle Frye boots). What do you think – about the shop, about losing handmade to industry?

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Weekend Reading

Not much to say from Maine this week – snow, more snow, negative temps. I’ve been stuck at home or not far from it for the past few days. Aside from short trips into Portland where my itinerary is also pretty limited I am stuck in Maine. And, I am in a bit of a rut about it all. The multicolored map of the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries posted on my office wall taunts me. I want to be somewhere hot with large open markets where there are stalls stacked with fish and avocados and palm oil burning here and there, a city of rusty rooftops with rural villages not far away – square mud-block houses along the side of the idea of a road. Folks, my wanderlust may just get the better of me before June. I don’t think I can make it that long. Heck, I’d take a Russian icebreaker en route to Antartica. Just something of an adventure!

By April I will be starting seeds indoors. That should cheer me up.

OH, and I have finally caught on to the craze that is Netflix streaming. Hello. There is a lot on there I can catch up on during this “I want to pretend it is green and blue and sunny outside” faze. This “if I have to rake the snow off my roof one more time and then shovel it atop the mounds that line my walkway I might have a fit” faze. Actually, the raking thing is a pretty good workout and I am sure anyone who saw me in my previous life of Hollywood glamour (kidding, but not) would laugh his/her tuckus off.

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Above – Old, pretty pictures from Maine. I took these during a trip north almost to the border from a scalloping boat. That was a fun day. Looking back I think the town appears a lot like the setting for the Syfy TV series “Haven” – the first few seasons were really good. Below – Now, well recently.

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Living Mindfully
Take a stand and join millions on Earth Hour – Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m. – by turning off your lights. Light some candles, put on the mood music, and relax knowing you are making a serious statement about tackling climate change.

On the environmental note – here’s a fun quirky fact – the average amount of toilet paper used by Americans per capita in a year? 30 LBS! The US is the world’s biggest buyer of toilet paper. Believe it or not this usage affects hundreds of bird and mammal species. Deforestation is a very serious issue. Get educated with WWF.

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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