Adventuresome Spirit: Jon Tierney

A few months ago I posted this interview with a friend of mine – a guy who has taken me to the top of a mountain and convinced me to go over a rocky ledge more than a few times. Jon Tierney is the owner of Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School. Sometimes you need to shake things up a little, sometimes a lot, to feel great – about life – about yourself – and to get some clarity. I’d call that healthy. Rock or ice climbing has accomplished these things for me. Check out the Q&A if you have some time.

Oh, and yes a few more adventuresome spirit Q&A are forthcoming – promise! ox


How much sleep do you get a night? And, I don’t mean lying in bed thinking about sleep.

I try to get seven or eight hours a night, and every once in a blue moon I manage nine. That’s probably more during the winter though – not hard to do in Maine where days are gray and end around 5PM. During the summer I’m up by 5:3oAM and rarely asleep till around 11PM. There is just so much more to do and when you live where I do you want to take advantage of every second of sunshine/daylight.

Do you sleep through the night?

I mostly do, but I’ve found if I eat a meat heavy meal for dinner I’ll have nightmares – same thing (no surprise) if I watch a horror movie that day. If there’s a big storm coming in (say a blizzard forecast for the next day or really high winds) or if I’ve got a busy day lined up – or travel – the next day – I wake up a lot and usually finally give up around 3 or 4AM.

Do you have to take sleeping aids to sleep?

I don’t advise it and I don’t (I save my stash for flying, something I dread). There’s a certain amount of toxicity there and your body is going to acclimate to whatever you are taking so you’ll have to up the dosage and well then you can begin to see a spiral of unhealthy repercussions. If you have problems sleeping rather than pills or booze try the following before you go to bed (these work for me, I’m not a therapist or doctor – just to be clear):
Take a warm shower. Maybe light a couple candles in the bathroom. This helps me transition from the work/a maybe stressful day into a peaceful evening.
Breathe in and out – deep breaths – three times.
Remove electronics from your bedroom – yup, that includes the TV.
Read a book in bed – even if it’s for ten minutes. Something calming, not a self help book or fitness magazine. (An author who come to mind for this “activity” is Jhumpa Lahiri – everything I’ve read by her is wonderful!  Oh, and I really want to read Rick Bragg’s The Most They Ever Had and  Pigs Can’t Swim: A Memoir by Helen Peppe – it’s about life on a Maine farm.)
Check out what the Sleep Foundation recommends here.

The Huffington Post recently ran a piece “Here’s a Horrifying Picture of What Sleep Loss Will Do To You” – you can find it here.  Below is an illustration from the article, which summarizes  this Gallup poll’s findings and this research by U.K. researchers on what happens when you don’t get seven or more hours of shut-eye a night. It’s not a pretty picture.

National Nutrition Month – March

It’s National Nutrition Month and I’m taking the proverbial “bull by the horns” tactic and have decided to get healthier, which means eating right and doing all my exercises at the gym not just the ones I feel like at the time.

I’m going to try to blog about nutrition – well or wellness – taking care of yourself in a healthy way – all this month. Oh don’t give me the eye roll, this is going to be fun – seriously folks eating right doesn’t mean never having a donut or a beer. Well, at least not to me.

How much do you know about nutrition?

OK, I know zilch about nutrition. I’ve met some nutritionists and they seem really nice and like they know a lot about nutrition, but they went to school for that. I studied politics, law, and communications. In other words, the opposite of nutrition. My studies should have been called the sugar overload to get you through the next all-nighter  at the studio or legal brief.

According to what I Googled, nutrition has to do with serving sizes, calories, labels. Dig deeper it’s about what’s in the foods you eat – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fiber. OK, I get that stuff. According to Wikipedia, my favorite – though not by any means always accurate information source – nutrition is the selection of foods and preparation of foods, and their ingestion. OK, so it’s what you eat.

What does “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”mean to you?

For me it’s more about eating right and living an overall healthy lifestyle. I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food so being active is really, really important to me. Eating right means being aware of how much food you are eating, chewing, swallowing, paying attention to when you are full and stopping.

It means you don’t have to eat the entire chocolate bar, actually you shouldn’t – and that bar should be dark chocolate and preferably not something found on a regular supermarket shelf (I’ll be writing about cocoa a lot this year – exciting stuff coming folks! – so we’ll get into that obsession later).

OK, eating right means salads and fruit every day or most days. It means water not soda with the exception of when I go to the movies (that’s once every couple months if I’m lucky) or am sick. It means locally sourced or organic produce if I can help it. It also means eating at least two square meals a day – a meal being a bowl of pasta w/ a lemon, olive oil, green olive, parsley, red pepper flake dressing. It might also mean broccoli greens and sausage. Once or twice a week it means some nice rustic bread – not that sliced crap you find in the bread aisle at your regular market. During the summer it’s a lot about eating what I grow. Oh, and just about every day I have a hard boiled egg courtesy of the gals from Great Cluck Egg Farm.

Eating right means around 85% of the time I’m doing what I know is considered healthy and the rest of the time I’m getting a mocha from Tandem Coffee Roasters or eating a couple pieces I’ve broken off a bar from Theo Chocolate.

Maybe once a month I have a donut, okay or two. Oh, and when I go to one of my favorite restaurants – e.g. Eventide Oyster Co. I don’t hold back – except I never end up getting dessert.

Oh, and I love popcorn, but again it’s a treat so maybe once or twice a month and I pop at home with olive oil and kernels from a small company in Vermont. No microwave and no microwavable food thank you very much.

Eating right means saying yes to a a couple slices from Otto Pizza (I like the kind w/ bacon and potatoes) and going for a run the next day, coming home and making a smoothie.

My friend Barbara G. at Whole Foods Market in Portland is aware of my investment in trying to eat right and work out. She, bless her sweet heart, suggested I sign up for the Engine 2 Challenge at the store – a 4-part series starting March 8.

I booked a spot!

Description: Join Tanja, the store’s Healthy Eating Specialist is running a month long food challenge that can help you ramp up your Plant Strong™ program, and get back on track after the holidays. Focus will be on manageable weekly changes that can have a positive effect down the road. Over the course of the month, you will learn new cooking techniques that can get you back in the driver’s seat in the kitchen! This course is limited to twenty committed people, who are ready to make some Engine 2 changes.  Each particpant will receive a copy of the Engine 2 Diet book.

I’m psyched – and – maybe you should be too? I’ll be blogging about the series, posting recipes – from it and for my favorite smoothies – and giving workout tips from some of my favorite sources. I’ll also be writing about what a unhealthy relationship with food is and how someone who is suffering from that can find his/her way out. Oh, and fun – yummy (did I just write that as a descriptive??) workout/yoga clothes.

March 1 – Kicking off National Nutrition Month. Bring it!

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.


I went down the rabbit hole with the start of this series on coffee I’m doing with my friend – the very informed and passionate – A.F. of Portland Food Map (I love that site!). There is just so much research to fall in love with – the history, process, environmental problems associated with it, the beautifully rich taste of a cup brewed just right. This is just the kind of subject I can really get myself in trouble with – I’m one of those writers whose really more of a researcher – I love learning and my interest knows few if any boundaries. I picked up five books related to the subject and could read more  – not to mention the plethora of great stuff online and omg all the emails from scientists I got with the coolest information…and there I go pulling you into the rabbit hole. Pause, breathe, exhale…okay back on subject…

With a general consumption of caffeine on the rise this is a relevant time to explore how coffee is grown, harvested, processed, and assigned a flavor profile.

In the Root’s newest series on coffee, we will be looking at some of the craftsmen who make up Maine’s rapidly evolving specialty coffee industry. Their coffee is the antithesis of the water-soluble instant coffee you will find in grocery stores or the over-roasted cup from the corner Starbucks.

Have you ever thought where the coffee you wake up to every morning comes from? How a cup of coffee connects you to people and natural environments in countries thousands of miles away?

There’s a lot to learn! Here are links to part one and part two – both featuring parts of conversations I’ve had with A.F. and Matt B. of Speckled Ax. Sip slowly there are two more parts coming – most likely in March. ox

Meatballs with Orange and Mint

During  a recent weekend in Vermont a mutual friend introduced me to Deirdre Heekin, who owns the wonderful restaurant and wine bar – Osteria Pane e Salute – with her husband head chef Caleb Barber. Everything about her and the restaurant exuded charm so I was thrilled when she dropped copies of her books into my arms.  I stayed up reading In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love, a beautifully written book about nurturing oneself and the great cuisine of Italy. One of the dog-eared pages contains a recipe for Meatballs with Orange and Mint. I made the meatballs last weekend and all week have been meaning to post this recipe – want it to by my Valentine to you dear readers. It’s a little late or perhaps on time – depending on your plans and when you do your shopping. Nurture yourselves with a bowl of spaghetti and these meatballs. Light a fire in the fireplace or wood stove if you have one. Light the candles too. Put on some Italian music – thank everything for Pandora and all those international channels. Let yourselves be swept away to a warmer climate and the charms of Italy. ox

Polpettine al Arancio e Menta (Meatballs with Orange and Mint) from In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber

1 pound ground beef (or ground pork)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated orange zest
2 eggs
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1/4 cup minced mint leaves
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, for browning
Orange juice

In a large mixing bowl and using your hands, combine the beef, bread crumbs, orange zest, eggs, herbs, and salt and pepper, and mix well. Form the mixture into small meatballs about as big around as the diameter of a nickel, but no larger, and set them aside on a baking tray or plates. Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet until a haze just begins to form over the pan, put in some of the meatballs, but don’t overcrowd the pan, and lower the heat to medium. Cook the meatballs, turning them gently with a spatula or by shaking the pan, until lightly browned. Test one of the plumper meatballs for doneness by cutting it in half: no pink meat should remain in the middle. Raise the heat to high and add just a little of the orange juice, tilting the pan carefully to glaze all the meatballs. Remove the cooked meatballs onto paper towels to drain, and then repeat the cooking process with any remaining meatballs, wiping out the pan between batches with a paper towel.

Weekend Photos: Vermont

Last weekend I visited my friends at ShackletonThomas in Vermont. They put me up in their beautiful barn, which has an incredible view and because they are artists is curated with a combination of fun wall art – collages of postcards and other mementos – and hand-thrown pottery.

Waking up in Vermont

Of course we went antiquing, and of course we did not buy the hoofed lamps in the above photo. Grotesque on every level.

Last time I visited we didn’t get a chance to go to Simon Pearce’s shop and restaurant in nearby Quechee. This time we did and I highly recommend a visit! Pearce is famous for his handcrafted glass.  Some of you might recognize the last name because of his son Kevin – a former pro snowboarder who survived a crash to create a fun that supports organizations that enrich the lives of families and individuals affected by brain injury and other challenges. Check out the very well done documentary film “The Crash Reel” about him.

Below the shop and restaurant the public can watch glassware being made. The craftsmen perform a sort of ballet – albeit a dangerous one – with their bodies and the glass. After watching this for a bit I felt compelled to purchase an Ascutney Whiskey glass. Maybe I’ll get it’s pair when I go back.

My friends took me on a little bit of a behind the scenes tour including seeing the partially frozen waterfall behind Pearce’s shop (you can also see it from above in his restaurant). The hydropower station (in photo above) and waterfall generate renewable energy giving Pearce’s operation a smaller carbon footprint.

What’s a trip to Vermont without driving thru a covered bridge?

The Dinner Table Question

This past weekend I spent time with two of the most incredible people and their friends, some of whom are becoming my friends. As we ate a delicious home cooked meal, lounging into the late hours with dessert and more alcohol one of my friends asked the question of each person at the table “What would you do with $5 million dollars?” As the question made it’s way around the room there were some interesting and obvious answers. For various reasons this idea is actually something I’ve thought about – not so much the figure exactly, but the what if I had $$$. I’d pay off my mortgage, give some to my best friend, and the rest to a few charities – primarily Doctors Without Borders – whose work I admire so. I would spend time abroad on their projects and see the world while helping people in impossible situations. Please note this is not an entirely unselfish act – some of the places where they are needed so badly in some of the most godforsaken places are also some of the most extraordinary lands with unbelievably incredible people and they are witnessing the worst part of history and human beings and the absolute best. Someone at the party said so smartly she also thinks of this idea of having so much money, but to allow herself to think freely about what she would do so that her decisions are not tied to some short responsible calculation – so she knows the what if. I may not be explaining this so well, but when you let yourself go don’t you see the potential?

Look what documentary photographer Marcus Bleasdale did – at about age 30 swapped an incredibly well paying ultra cozy office job as an investment banker for conflict zones and makes less than 1/4 of what he did.  He is full of life now, ironic considering his days can be spent photographing bodies, but his eyes are open to real life.

In light of the last post, about a young man who has been told he will die – and yes we all know we will die, but not many of us have a doctor telling us this in our mid-30s as a fact not a distant reminder – in light of his story and my friend’s question I would ask you what would you do if you were given $5 million and/or told you were going to die – let’s say to give some perspective that you would have between one and three years.

I’ve told you what I’d do with the money, but not the time. I’d write letters to the people who have meant the most to me telling them how they affected me and what they mean to me. I’d get out a map and plot my course to Norway and Cuba – I’d spend a few weeks in each place living out of an apartment – nothing fancy, I don’t like fancy, rather very simple lodgings from which I could walk or ride a bike to see the town and/or country. I would cliff dive and take a ride in a hot air balloon. I’d read all those books piled up against the wall. I’d watch my bees and chickens. I’d be grateful. I’d let things go.

How Long Have I Got Left?

Every once in a while I make my way to Joanna Goddard’s sweet blog A Cup of Jo. There between “Bachelorette” updates, hair tutorials, and pictures of her children I sometimes find very thoughtful posts. During my most recent visit I found and felt obligated to share this – I would encourage you to read this beautiful piece by Paul Kalanithi, a chief resident in neurological surgery at Stanford University who was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer several months ago.  At first, he thought he had only a few months, but now, because of a new treatment, he may live longer. (Two years? Five years? Ten years? The doctors don’t know.) And that uncertainty is disorienting.

The Taste of America by Colman Andrews

I think Colman Andrews must be one of the coolest living people.

Sure, he co-founded Saveur and was a contributing editor to Gourmet (the greatest magazine ever),  but to me it was that he worked under the legendary music critic Lester Bangs at Creem magazine. My interest in Bangs began with his portrayal in “Almost Famous” by Philip Seymour Hoffman (a man I’d gladly just watch breathe – or hiccup, because he’d do it with style and great humor and such delivery) and was solidified with my reading of Jim Derogatis biography Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic, which I came across gosh it must have been the year it came out – just by happenstance while I was in New York (I used to buy books from this guy with a cart on 2nd avenue in the East Village  – he turned me on to Charles Bukowski and Henry Rollins one good book of poetry).

Last year Andrews wrote The Taste of America, a collection of the best food in the USA. It covers 250 food products manufactured and on sale in the USA, with an emphasis on those with distinctive regional characteristics, including but not limited to dairy products, flours, syrups, confections, and preserves. It also covers fresh ingredients, again emphasizing those with distinctive regional characteristics, including fruit and vegetables, seafood, and meat.

It’s a wonderful book, a conversation piece.  It nudges you asking “What does America taste like to you?”  The answers must be unique depending on where you grew up and whether your parents were back to the landers focused on homegrown or professionals in a big city. My childhood and adolescence, spent between Northern Virginia and rural Arkansas under people whose food ethics were pretty similar, offers me this response: peach cobbler (from scratch), fried chicken (homemade), Sunkist, Munchos, saltwater taffy, pure maple syrup from New England, cucumbers and tomatoes off the vine, celery, and oysters. More than anything however, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches define the taste of America – they always have and I cannot see this changing. I may try to use natural peanut butter (I started off with Peter Pan and gradually made my way to Jif for years) and have swapped out the disgusting (it is!!) Welch’s grape jelly for local preserves….perhaps I use bread that’s a bit better than Wonder Bread (though I’ll admit to a craving for it every year for a few days)….but the idea is the same. I do not add bananas or fluff, though I have been known to wedge a few broken potato chips in there.

What does America taste like to you?

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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