Continuing with the snow theme

snow piled up

I am basing the accuracy of the prediction of six more weeks of winter on what is happening outside my office windows, not on the furry (and oh so adorable) Punxsutawney Phil who it is said saw his shadow earlier today. More on the superstition behind Groundhog Day here.

No, we will have six more weeks of winter because frankly that’s just normal (even in these days of global warming) and we need it – the kids skating on frozen ponds, the snowmobilers crisscrossing snowy fields, the plow guys (I’ll expect mine later today again), the maple sugar producers (snow insulates and protects trees), the ice fishermen, ski gear industry…

I feel a snow themed post is in order as snow storms continue to transform the Northeast from a land I recognize to one the late (great polar explorer) Sir Ernest Shackleton might have felt at home in.

Winter, snow, the cold – how to deal with.

First, appreciate it.

The quiet – Have you ever noticed how it is quieter when it snows?

The inspiration it provides – “Snow Flakes”, a poem by Emily Dickinson:
I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town,
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down.
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig,
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!

muck boots

Prepare – I live in my Muck Boots during January and February.  Insulate in a warm, but stylish coat.

Improvise – Do what my friends Kate and Andrew did and get an inflatable palm tree for the home. Feel free to carry it down snowy streets to parties. We did.

Embrace it – Light a fire in the wood stove. Cook warm, comforting, spicy meals. My favorites are chili and pasta dishes. Watch the bloody good new British television series Fortitude set in one of the coldest spots in the world (it is actually filmed in gorgeous Iceland). Beware the polar bears, and things that go growl in the dark.

snow globe

Photographer Friday a day early

Hi all. I’ve got some kind of busy day tomorrow with a deadline for an article looming, so I am posting Photographer Friday a day early. Oh, and I am featuring my work – not that I am a professional or anything near that – but you know what that is OK. In fact, this year I plan to share photographs taken by friends who are not pros either – you do not have to have been published in magazines to be in my blog. Photography is an amazing way to express one’s self and to see the world through literally a different filter. I was recently reminded by friends how important photography is – there are a few I see as modern day philosophers – great men (sorry ladies, there are plenty of incredibly talented female photographers – it’s just my favorites happen to be men) – who tell stories with their cameras and see things regular folks like me don’t – James Nachtwey, John Goodman, Antonin Kratochvil, Ron Haviv, and Marcus Bleasdale. I don’t want to live in a world without their images and minds, they are extraordinary beings who live beyond straight lines. But, again today is not about them, but about us regular folk.

Since I am not about to get a photography book deal, and because I want to share images from my trips to Africa, my friends M and S suggested I create a photo book using Mac. My oldest best friend S, whose work will be featured this spring on Delicious Musings, inspires me in all ways – oh and she is a she :) S sees things in vibrant colors and has traveled all over Asia, India, Australia, and Europe. She and her boyfriend are travel partners encouraging each other visually. They go places in ways by means I am not up to, and so we learn much by looking at each other’s images and talking about what is in and outside the frame. We critique each other’s work and because she is so technologically advanced than me – plus oh my goodness her lens collection (!!) – I think I get more out of the deal. Anyhow, making a book on Mac is super easy and fun and if you don’t go adding pages (I did!!) not too expensive. Maybe just maybe my friends will get calendars next year, guess we will have to see where I travel this year and what I end up with.

Thank you for letting me share this with you! OH, and p.s. my plan is to share stories from Rwanda and Uganda next week – finally!

africa book

africa book two

africa book three

Weekend Reading

I may be sitting at home surrounded by snow, with more snow forecast, but I am feeling very much like spring is not too far off. Last week a little package arrived from High Mowing Organic Seeds and today I made my first Great Cluck Egg Farm CSA delivery to friends in Portland. That’s right backyard chicken fans, there is singing (clucking) coming from the barn and the featured gals can be found cute as ever fluffed up and burrowed into the tops of hay bales laying away.  During the winter I broke down and purchased a dozen eggs from a local farm. It wasn’t that they were not good, but they were not from my gals and they just were not as fresh. Maybe it’s the organic feed and vegetable leftovers they get, or the oatmeal I warm for them on the coldest mornings, or how I pay them entirely too much attention – whatever those gals produce delicious eggs.

Oh, and the bees… All four hives seem to be doing well. I gave them each a sugar board a couple weeks ago and was a bit nervous so many bees were at the tops of three hives and that there was hardly a sign of life in the fourth. My bee mentor “J” calmed me saying the fourth (the smallest, a split from one of the hives last summer) is likely healthy and happy eating off their resources (honey) from last summer. Sure enough, on a warmish day a week ago bees were flying in and out of the hives. Happy day! I posted video to my Instagram account in case you want to see for yourself.

I am so into the idea of spring and greenery and not so into purchasing more beautiful tulips to waste away in a week in a vase, that I have started a succulents “garden” in my living room. They need sun, not too much water, and are therefore economical and pretty and fun.


Better Late Than Never
Wolfe’s Neck Farm, a beautiful place where one can  see a working farm and learn a lot about animals, has just announced February and April vacation camps for kids. Go here for more information.

Rosemont Market & Bakery, Cultivating Community and Maine College of Art will host a Sunday afternoon film series exploring the origins, challenges, and triumphs of the local foods movement. Films will be shown on Sundays at 4PM at Osher Hall, the Maine College of Art, 522 Congress Street, Portland.  Admission is FREE. Seating is limited. Seats can be reserved in advance at

Speaking of films, I saw Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s American Sniper. WOW. Tremendous job. It honors American soldiers, presents the realities of war (the extreme and often barbaric violence, the separation of families, the courage), and the tragedy (on both sides) of it. As a past supporter of Wounded Warrior Project (I plan to get more involved this year) and someone who has “adopted” (sent care packages to every month for a year) platoons, I have learned about the physical and mental trauma America’s men and women suffer abroad and bring home with them after serving their country. They deserve our support and I think seeing this film is just a very small way to honor them.

In Maine and looking for something to do – check out the goings on at SPACE, State Theatre (they just announced new shows – Jason Bonham is coming in May!!! So excited!!), and if all else fails consider taking a snow free stroll through the Portland Museum of Art. Need to get out of Dodge Mainers how about the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, there are some seriously cool exhibitions up now – I’m heading down soon to see “Gordon Parks Back to Fort Scott“.


Project 615 + The Bridge = Stylish purchase of “Spread Love” or “Heart for the Hungry” collection during February = 5 meals to hungry children in Tennessee. I’m purchasing a fleece hoodie! Heck ya.


I love to dress up as much as the next gal, but I also love well made stylish workout/run my errands in/sit around the house in/drive long distances in/live life in wear. And…while an Asics/New Balance/Athleta/Lole/Lululemon gal myself,  I am excited as heck about this new Nikelab/Johanna Schneider women’s training collection coming out next month. *The NikeLab x JFS Spring 2015 collection launches on Feb. 26 and will be available at, NikeLab locations and select retailers globally.


(Sort of) Blizzard 2015 Maine

Even after a morning of shoveling I am still not sure this storm amounts to “extreme” and it sure as heck wasn’t the “storm of the century” – how about just a good ol’ fashioned Nor’easter?

A few of the morning’s headlines:

Yahoo News – “No Mercy: Blizzard slams Boston area with 2 feet of snow” – Seriously, that’s nothing – hold onto that headline till we’re talking at least 4 feet of snow. A television network had New England getting walloped. Really?

Wall Street Journal – “Blizzard 2015: What Went Wrong With the Forecasting” – Thank you.

Are the meteorologists just really inaccurate a lot of the time or are they trying to catch up with the news folks in the “scare tactic” department – and why is it the media insist on treating us all like children? We don’t have to be scared into submission, we just need to be told there is a storm with a lot of snow coming our way and being on the road is not advised. It is becoming more and more clear media outlets – broadcast, print, and especially online – are stumbling over each other in a race for which they have not trained and do not appreciate to be the first at the finish line. The media just keep getting the stories and us wrong. Take the road less traveled folks, and oh by the way talk to a few hardy New Yorkers and New Englanders (even us transplants) before tucking us into our beds and telling us the snowy boogeyman will be knocking at our windows real real soon.

snow porch

During the storm.

day two

snow field

Day after.

Road Trip: Vermont and New Hampshire

Please pardon my recent absence, I was on the road in Vermont for a writing assignment. I’ve featured my friends Miranda Thomas (“Winky”) and Charles Shackleton on this blog before. Each time I visit them I learn so much about the natural and creative worlds – which overlap much in their presence. A few images from this trip…

vermont one

Just a wee bit of research for the article, done upstairs in the warm super comfortable barn that is filled with Winky’s pots and painting.

vermont two cs

A bedroom display at ShackletonThomas. Doesn’t that bed look delicious? How about the soft green chair next to it? This time I fell in love with a rocking chair. One day! When Charlie designs and makes furniture it is with such humanness. He uses his hands for a great deal of the process so that you can feel a bit of his history and person in each piece. There is something very old and pure about his furniture and Winky’s pottery – it is alive and full of character.


I never leave empty handed and this trip was no exception. Tea is a morning and late afternoon ritual in the Shackleton household so I thought it apropos to get one of Winky’s beautiful handmade pots. A trick she taught me – pour hot water from the kettle into the pot, empty it, pour more in and then put the tea in – this warms the pot – do the same with your mug.

nh bridge

nh bridge two

One day, Winky and I made a day of it – driving over to see the bridge in Cornish, New Hampshire near where the writer J.D. Salinger would stand and greet his visitors. He was a very private soul for the last half of his life, passing in 2010. We had lunch at King Arthur Flour and I finally saw the beautiful Dartmouth College campus.

Living Mindfully

Hold the door for someone and when the door is held for you say “thank you”.  Note, don’t hold the door open to a restaurant or similar place where patrons – and the owner – will be none too happy about the cool breeze you are letting in. I don’t understand people who let the door slam in my face anymore than the folks who leave their shopping carts in parking spaces in a busy lot. Appreciating those around you should make them and you happier and more mindful. ox


Photographer Friday: Don James

Years before surfing was popularized in Beach Boy songs and the television show “Gidget”,  and before it became a billion dollar industry, Don James and his buddies were part of the Southern California surfing culture. In 1936, at the age of 15, James began photographing himself and his friends catching waves and hanging out along the coast between San Onofre (near San Clemente) and Point Dume (near Malibu).

Inspired by legendary surfer Tom Blake‘s surfing images in National Geographic, James taught himself how to take pictures. For information on his camera equipment and waterproofing it, go here.

He continued taking pictures of surfers between lifeguarding shifts and later dental school classes at the University of Southern California.

Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936 – 1942: Photographs by Don James is a book I have carried with me from my early days in Los Angeles.  It remains a favorite.

surfing one
surfing two

surfing three

Weekend Reading

Happy almost weekend!!

As part of my weekly Weekend Reading posts I’m introducing a semi-regular section called “Show and Tell” in which someone tells us about something special to them.

Here we go.. for the first one I approached my friend Samantha Lindgren who founded and runs A Gathering of Stitches (GOS)  in Portland, Maine. GOS is a maker space for fiber and textile artists. I am renting a desk there this winter.  Samantha is one of those uber talented people who makes all her own clothes – even bathing suits!! – and beautiful quilts.

15-15-1 Featherweight (1 of 1)

Last Fall I was lucky enough to have an early 1950’s era Singer Featherweight enter my universe. Her name is Grenelle and she was very well loved by her previous owner. My impulse to buy her was purely fetishistic, I had seen a couple of them at a workshop I had recently attended, and had fallen hard for their pure, historic beauty. When this pristine example circled around me I couldn’t resist, and installed her in my studio. She sits between my three-year-old computerized Elna workhorse with all the modern bells and whistles, and a stripped down Bernina serger from the 80’s that does just what I need it to do.  These two other machines do not have names you may have noticed. My Grenelle however, she has a personality, and a name borrowed from her original owner. I was recently working on a quilt and having issues with seam integrity that was slowing me down. It’s hard to explain to a non-sewist, but the beginning and ends of my seam were fraying uncooperatively. I had read somewhere online about a quilter who swore by her Featherweight for quilting, so I thought I’d give it a try. I am hooked! I’m not sure if someone could give me a scientific explanation of the difference in stitches between Grenelle and my Elna, and I do feel like a sewing geek for saying this, but Grenelle’s stitches are just more beautiful.  They just are. For piecing together quilt tops, she excels. And so she is my default position for piecing, and a tool that is very close to my heart. – Samantha Lindgren

Link Love
We are so fortunate in Maine to have such a strong state university and cooperative extension programs. In Cumberland County, UMCE is holding a workshop on cooking with seaweed. Three experts will discuss sourcing, selecting and preparing seafood and seaweed Saturday, Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County office, 75 Clearwater Drive, Falmouth.  Cost is $40; proceeds benefit the UMaine Extension Nutrition Program in Cumberland County. Register here.

young kelp

Better Late Than Never
The OSCAR noms are out!!

The “Mountain Mural” Bedroom Makeover project on Apartment Therapy.  A beautiful idea. If I had a studio space or children and thus kids room I would love to try and do this with some of the mountains/volcanoes I saw in Uganda.

NASA travel posters – amazing!!

and a few pics from my “Makes me Smile” Pinterest Board – because let’s face it between Nigeria and Paris it’s been a tough week!  A fluffy dog, wool socks in bed, pink flowers, and hot cocoa can always get me to smile. ox




What exactly am I scared of?


That could mean a million things to any one person.  So, here’s my question – how do you deal with the thing that most scares you?

I’m claustrophobic. As a child I hated riding in elevators so much – even looking at them made me nervous – so I would walk however many flights of stairs it took to reach my destination. My father was some kind of patient. That fear ultimately manifested itself in flying and a couple times I had panic attacks in really crowded or small places.  Most recent, semi-embarrassing time was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when a security guard could see I was visibly shaken from, well being in a small place. Sometimes I have no advance warning, sometimes a situation is okay until it’s not.

Riding in elevators is not my favorite thing to do, but I deal with it. Flying was something that got to be such a huge fear that I couldn’t think about booking airline tickets without getting sick and just seeing a plane – especially the inside of one – on television was enough to make me walk out of the room. When I needed to fly I took prescribed sleeping pills or took the train.  Since I couldn’t stay on sleeping pills for two back to back long flights I missed out on some great trips. A year ago I had had enough of the fear. I had not traveled to so many places I wanted to while my friends kept going on these amazing adventures to Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia…

My frustration had outgrown my fear when I finally contacted my travel agent and booked my first trip to Africa. I was still going to take a sleeping pill, but that was just going to get me through a bulk of the flight. All the days before and hours getting to and sitting in the airport I would be wide awake. So, I came up with a sort of plan. I got a fun book, some fashion magazines, put together a great mix on my iPod, bought a cute jacket for the plane, and read all about the places I’d be going and looked at tons of pictures of those places. A week before my flight I started having mini panic attacks, but in truth the only thing scarier to me at that point than getting on the plane was not getting on the plane. There was no way I wasn’t going. And I did and I was fine and I’ve flown long flights again and again. I still take a sleeping pill when I get on a long flight and still get the jitters, but now I know I can do it and I do. Confronting my greatest fear meant taking it head on – well sort of, I’ve still got those pills.

Buddha said “When you embrace the enemy, he cannot beat you.”

Wise words.


Tips for flying if you have a fear of it – learned from personal experience:

Don’t drink caffeine or have sugar 8 hours before your flight.

Focus on the destination and what you are going to do when you get there, who you’ll hang out with, where you will eat, etc.

Consider a sleeping aid, personally I think it’s healthier than alcohol. Talk to your doctor even if you are considering getting an over the counter aid.

Invest in a neck pillow. On longer flights some airline companies hand out eye masks and socks, those are great additions.

Don’t wear sweats, dress nice – put some effort into it – act the part of a calm carefree flyer even if you’re not. Heck, get a manicure a couple days in advance.

Remind yourself flying is way safer than driving. No need to look at statistics, just know it.

Check out a map of the interior of the plane so you are prepared in advance for how big or small it is. Better to have your minor freak out a day or two before than upon arrival.

Read some of those travel beauty, what to pack for long flights articles. Focus on – again – acting the part of the calm, carefree flyer.

Try to sit closer to the front of the plane or between the wings, my experience has been turbulence affects you less there and the plane doesn’t seem as confining as in the back.

Be proud of yourself for doing this, once you’re strapped in and the plane has taken off you’ve committed to it so be prepared and stay calm – breathe.

Weekend Reading

These January days in Maine the sky is grey and the days are just beginning to grow longer.  It’s on the coldest and cloudiest days I am grateful for a cup of tea, wool blanket, and a good book.  Some candles may be lit, there may even be a fire in the fireplace. I am going for comfort. What kinds of books do you like to read? How do you find them? I mostly go off recommendations from the folks at Hello Hello Books in Rockland. While in town yesterday the staff turned me onto the mystery series by by Julia Spencer -Fleming and lobbied for Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel The Signature of All Things. I picked it up for free with store credit, woo hoo.

books read

books stacks

Read Me – Winter Reading List

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison

Honestly, I read many more books than those I am listing. Most were for research and some quite heavy or disappointing (or both), so those – mainly the ones on Africa – I did include are those I think anyone could enjoy. This year I hope to read more new releases (= support the publishing world) as well as take advantage of the public library (= save money).

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 2) by Alexander McCall Smith / In Morocco by Edith Wharton / The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola / How to be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, and Sophie Mas / The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs / The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence by Martin Meredith / Congo: The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck / Peace Meals by Anna Badkhen / The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner / The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai / The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris / A Year in Provence (a joy!!) and Toujours Provence (letdown!) by Peter Mayle / Definitely Maybe by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky / Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad / Radio Congo Ben Rawlence / The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal /
Land of a Thousand Hills by Rosamund Halsey Carr (inspiring) / The Prophet’s Camel Bell by Margaret Lawrence/ The Road to Timbuktu by John Mortimer / The Impenetrable Forest by Thor Hanson / Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley / The Secret History by Donna Tartt / The Book of Life (3rd of A Discovery of Witches trilogy) Deborah Harkness / Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick

Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World by Robin Wright / The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (quasi permanent space on my bedside table) / Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer -Fleming (it’s the third in the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, I’m starting with this one)

In the to-read stack
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston / The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama / A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof / The Circle by Dave Eggers / Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (the seventh in the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series) / The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Pilgrims is my favorite book by her).


Instead of Link Love or Better Late Than Never, Instead of the tomorrow’s regular Friday Photo post – simply the following.  ox Paris

Cartoonists around the world rallied today behind fellow artists killed in yesterday morning’s terror attack at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office because of their satirical drawings mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Surviving staff are planning to print 1 million copies of next week’s run (normally they run 30,000) with the help of Google and other magazines.  One of the writers of Charlie Hebdo said on TV “It’s very hard. We are all suffering, with grief, with fear, but we will do it anyway because stupidity will not win.”

Image by London-based artist Lucille Clerc. #raiseyourpencilforfreedom


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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