One Year Later

If I seem a little MIA lately, I apologize. I’ve been pretty busy since mid-May and traveling a lot between a destination wedding, Memorial Day and unfortunately, the passing of my Pepere last night who I was really close with. This post isn’t about death, but I need to say something first.

This is a photo of my Pepere and me (back of my head) on my wedding day. He had a stroke only a few months before and for no explainable medical reason he recovered from it more or less…and he was there for my wedding day.

This smile is what I will always remember. He was so happy to see me get married, as he had been asking me every time I called him, before I got engaged, when I would get married. He passed away almost exactly one year later after getting to witness my wedding, and he also got to see my cousin get married. We called ourselves the three musketeers because we spent almost every Saturday together for months and months while my Memere was sick. There will always be a very special bond.

Death sucks from the perspective of those here on earth. There is just no other way of explaining it. Thankfully, I had enough notice to get up to Bangor to say goodbye to him before he passed and even though he wasn’t awake he did press his thumb into my hand a few times, and he was surrounded by family. Maybe it was an involuntary reaction, but I choose to believe it was the only way he could communicate with us. I’m happy he’s finally back in Heaven with my Memere though, which he had missed so much since her passing in 2006. Days before he passed, he actually told my cousin he could almost reach her. True love for life-and beyond. With him we lost a lot of great stories, that smile, his stubborn brow furrow, his thick Franco-American St. John’s Valley french accent and a lot of our heritage (he was the last native French speaker in my immediate family). Though we lost a lot—I gained a lot more just by having him in my life for almost 28 years.

This post isn’t about death though, it’s about celebration. Celebrating one year of marriage and the beginning of another awesome journey that I hope my grand-kids will talk about fondly one day just like we talked about Memere and Pepere’s. It’s also a little about our Memorial Day trip, and just writing this is good for me since, if anything, I’m a creature of habit and getting back into the swing of things is always helpful to me (I’m actually heading into work later today, but I just needed the morning to wrap my head around things).  So without further ado…

One year ago, on May 28th, 2011 this happened:

This year, on May 28, 2012 we looked a little more like…er…this:

Well. We looked like that before the black flies really started getting us to a point we couldn’t ignore it anymore. Then we looked a little more like this:

So why did we look like that? One. We’re raging with high-class. Two. We were at camp, which is a Memorial Day family tradition. Camp for three days and no shower. Even though Andy’s sister and brother-in-law weren’t there this time around, it was still fun with his Dad, his Dad’s friend Jess, Casey (aka Tom Cruise) us, and the dogs. Since it was also Andy’s Dad’s (Bob) 60th birthday we threw him a little party and gave him gifts that were camp related.

Like a handmade spice box full of camp essentials from the Pangburns IGA in Millinocket, and Ben’s Shop and Save in Newport. By handmade I mean reused from a Penzey’s box of spices Bob gave us years ago. I’m sure someone must have made it, it just wasn’t us.

Or a sign for the outhouse (when you camp in the winter and plumbing can’t be used), I lovingly referred to years ago as “The Shitbox”, and Bob found it hilarious.

And since Bob is a meat lover, we gave him a double burger cast iron fire cooker I grabbed from Cabelas for use at camp, or other outdoor adventures.

Aside from the gifts, every Memorial Day weekend consists of a lot of heavy duty bug spray and the inevitable chewing of black flies (hello spring in Maine), and every year I attempt to use organic spray and it never works. I mean it works okay, but not well enough. So the general attire of a spring camp trip is pants tucked into socks, shirt tucked into pants, jacket with strings to go tight around your waist, wellies up to your knees, a hat, and a lethal dose of bug dope and/or headnet. I’ve got it down to a science at this point.  Now, these photos were a few years ago and I’m missing a hat but it about sums up camp wear for Memorial Day.

Or maybe this one does. Thankfully, July is much more likely to allow fishing in a bathing suit top or tank top.

Yeah, like you think I’m going to show you a photo of that. Unlikely.

So while we’re enjoying the bug laden atmosphere and getting almost completely rooked by the fish, Winnie and Rosie can’t get enough of the lake. There are times Winnie gets tired and we actually have to make her come out of the water.

She’s a smart one though – as long as she’s in the water, the bugs won’t be able to get her belly.

Primrose also got in on the action but while Winnie is our swimmer, Rosie is our “launcher”. If she can’t stand on a rock and launch into the water in a full belly flop, and/or has zero chance of getting to the item first, she has zero interest in retrieving.

Here’s the kicker. When we went to leave-guess which truck wouldn’t start? I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t my father-in-laws, and it had all of our luggage in it. What you should understand is that our camp is miles (15+) down old logging trails, and calling the road to the camp a driveway is a misrepresentation of the word in it’s highest form. It’s a goat path on an angle you need a serious four wheel drive vehicle to get down.

After a long trip in one truck back out of camp, heading into Bangor to get a fuel pump, and filling the truck with tools we headed back into camp where the boys crawled under the truck and replaced the fuel pump. Right there in the woods. The first thing was siphoning out an almost entirely full tank of gas before jacking the truck up. Then they crawled under, got the job done and finally refilled it back up with 25+ gallons.

A couple hours later, we were all heading back out with Andy, the dogs and I in one truck and Casey in his-now in full working order. After dropping off one truck at my father-in-law’s house and then all piling into Casey’s for the two hour drive home the dogs decided sleep was in order.

I couldn’t have agreed more. It was a long day, but I have to say that our first wedding anniversary will always have a great story behind it.

And it’s one my Pepere would have laughed at had I been able to tell him.



Vegan Chipotle Quinoa Burgers

If you’re curious, I do find irony in the fact that I have a love of beef cattle and want to own my own someday, with the added fact that we eat vegan and vegetarian quite a bit. I also think it’s important to have a diverse diet though, including getting proteins from different sources besides meat. Sometimes it also just has to do with what my bodies telling me. Lately I’ve been pretty bogged down with allergies and a cold, so I’m trying to keep all dairy, eggs and meat out of my diet for the next few days since they tend to give me subtle reactions anyway. This meant it was time to go for the good grains and it was the perfect excuse to try quinoa.

I always thought it was one of those things like risotto that is intimidating. Despite the fact I have rice for risotto on my pantry shelf, I haven’t attempted that either. The thing with quinoa though is that I was so wrong about it being hard. This stuff is easy. Really easy. Easy as in cous-cous easy. Easy as in easier than rice easy. Or as easy as rice. Either way, I was completely wrong.

The original recipe for these burgers included dairy and eggs, oh—and it wasn’t for burgers. It was for bite size patties, which was not going to fly in our house. So I took the basics, referenced my favorite vegan substitution book and went to town on the recipe…plus adding in a bunch of stuff and taking out a bunch of stuff. The only thing that is about the same is the fact is uses quinoa.

First, I washed my quinoa. If you want a tip for this amazing grain, save the water when you wash the grain. Quinoa’s exterior has saponins in it. More or less, this means that it’s basically an all natural mild soap and is wonderful for your hair, oh and it’s packed with proteins. If you don’t wash the quinoa thoroughly you’ll end up with soapy water and a weird tasting quinoa. So rinse it through a fine mesh strainer into a container, and then use said rinse on your head in the shower. Just let it set for about 5 minutes in between your shampoo and conditioner. My friend who is no-poo recently said she mixed quinoa water with chickpea water and baking powder and it made her hair like glorious unicorns. Well, she didn’t exactly say that, but I know that’s what she meant.

While I cooked my quinoa, following the directions on my bag, I mixed up my binder. In lieu of eggs my handy little book told me I could use plenty of other things, but I chose the corn starch route for these. There’s also a way to do it with flax, but I didn’t want the flavor imparted. Next time I might try flax though, just to see the difference.

For the corn starch substitute you use two tablespoons of corn starch and two table spoons of warm water and this is equal to one egg. Pretty simple.

So I whisked up enough (four eggs worth – yep, four!) and then added a teaspoon of chia seeds to the mixture. They are after the superfood of the aztecs. If the bag says so, it must be true.

My friend actually told me about them this weekend so I decided to give it a go. Not only is chia easier to digest than flax, it contains more fiber and it also contains protein and antioxidants. Yes please.

To this mixture add:

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup almond cheddar shreds (or your favorite substitute)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, minced more or less
  • a tablespoon of chipotle powder (hence the name)
  • a teaspoon of garlic powder
  • one cup quick cook oatmeal – whole grain

Now, when you mix this all up that cornstarch is going to bind and fast. You might think, “ahh crap!” but just keep mixing it with a fork. Eventually it all comes together and you start seeing how they will hold in burger form (and they do).

Heat a skillet with some olive oil in it, and then grab about a small handful of the mixture and just roll and pat it in into patty form. Place patty in the skillet and get cookin! I did mine over medium heat until they were toasted nice and brown on either side.

To limit anymore carbohydrates, I took one piece of bread and toasted it, placed hummus and tomatoes on the bread and the hot crispy quinoa burgers on top. The temperature heat of the burger, mixed with the spice heat from the chipotle, combined with the cool tomato and the creamy hummus was a huge winner.

I would literally serve these to meat and potato eating truckers and I’m pretty sure they would like them. As long as I didn’t call them vegan, or suggest it was some sort of meat substitute. Oh heck, forget the trucker—we tease my brother-in-law about eating mostly meat and potatoes and even he ate one of these and liked it.

These would be so easy to make about a million other ways though. Add in some italian spices and basil and you could make italian burgers or even rolled into balls you could make “meatballs” for your spaghetti. Which I might have to do now that I just wrote it.

I made a little too much quinoa, but that just means for lunch I’m eating quinoa, almond cheese, tomatoes and a little salad dressing on a wrap and who knew, it’s pretty satisfying and filling.

There might be something to this whole quinoa thing after all.




Hold The Cherry Pie

Remember how a little while back I posted about our poor cherry tree? Well, I discussed the issue with MOFGA, the Maine Organic Farmers & Growers Association, and there wasn’t much hope for the tree. It looked like mechanical damage plus a mix of a potential canker disease.

We cut off all of the dead limbs like suggested and kept an eye on it but there was just no hope. The branches have been continuously dying and becoming brittle. As mentioned in the previous post on the tree, it looked slightly discolored. I realized if I licked my finger and wiped the bark I could wipe the discoloration off. I tried this on a few other trees and they all dried back to the same color. I knew something was on my tree, and it made me sad.

We also knew we had to get it out of there before whatever was going on spread to our other trees—if it hasn’t already. We’re keeping a close eye on them, especially our plum tree.

I’ve researched all around and it looks like you essentially only have to look at a sweet cherry tree wrong and they die. It could have started with the rootstock, been a mixture of mechanical and winter damage, been from pests, other diseased trees, planting it wrong, pruning it wrong or simply walked by it wrong. In other woods, they seem to be pretty susceptible to death.

So while I was gone fighting off Jaws in Martha’s Vineyard, Andy took to taking the cherry tree out. When I came home it looked a little more like this.

Just to be safe, we won’t be growing anything except grass in this same spot for at least a few years. We aren’t sure there is any damage to the soil, but given the condition of the tree we’re going to let it have a few years rest.

As of now the tree is in the burn pile, awaiting the next torching. We’ll need to do it soon so the tree can’t potentially transfer any airborn diseases to our other trees.

What surprised me most when I saw the tree in the burn pile was how small the root ball was. I would have expected after three years it would have been bigger than this. I may be entirely incorrect however.

Oh well. Long story short, we no longer have a cherry tree. Growing whether it be an orchard, a garden or personally is all about trying new things, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and learning from your mistakes. For now I’ll keep researching and reading, and maybe down the line if we try another cherry tree we’ll end up with a sweet cherry pie at the end.



A Spot For Tea

With the renovations so close I can taste almost see them, I decided I needed to really organize some areas of the house. One, because of the tight storage we already have and two, because once we move all of our furniture into the main part of the house before renovations it’s going to be even tighter. This means every little spot counts, even if it’s just a small drawer in the kitchen like my tea drawer.

For years I’ve had an entire drawer dedicated to my tea and it always ends up a wreck. Also, it’s just taking up valuable space I could use for something else. So when I opened the tea drawer and saw this, it was the final straw:

Wait, let me be more accurate. That was a shot after I had already taken out some boxes.

I thought about reorganizing the drawer, but it just seemed like a waste of time. The tea boxes are slightly large and so they seem to catch a lot when I open the drawer. I also knew I had some room on the bottom of the pantry I could put the tea instead. I don’t drink it daily, so it seemed weird to dedicate an entire drawer in an already tiny kitchen to it. I wasn’t sure what on earth I could use though. Then I remembered this paper holder I had in the office which I wasn’t using.

After some sorting and tossing of teas I don’t drink anymore, maybe possibly perhaps including some caffeinated tea I know I haven’t sipped in years (I haven’t drank caffeine in over two years) it looked a little more like this.

So much better! Oh, and my favorite of the bunch is the Roobios. I’m a big fan in general of Roobios. For some reason one of my boxes says Red Tea and one says Roobios, but they are both Roobios.

Now that everything is organized in one spot,  I was able to put the tea on the bottom shelf of the pantry, and claim one more drawer back in my kitchen. This organization was far past due.

Man it feels good to get things done. Now what to put in that empty drawer?

Happy Organization,


The Real Life Jaws

Hey friends! I’ve been on radio silence for the last week or more because I’ve been in Martha’s Vineyard since Thursday to see one of my dearest friends get married, was traveling on Wednesday and getting ready before that! I wish I had more photos to show you, but I only took my small camera and simply didn’t have time to take a lot. So here we go and I’ll fill in the gaps.

As whirlwind as it was, and as exhausted as I am now—it was a really nice time. Right from the moment I hit Woods Hole one of my other old friends (we met in a ball pit right before third grade started) picked me up, showed me around and took me out to lunch. It turns out the area is huge into marine biology, and they had a small free aquarium we could go through.

Seeing seals is adorable, but it downright helps when you miss your puppies. Why? Just look at that face! There’s a reason they are known for having a dog like face. I wanted to snuggle it. Except they need water and I need air—that and I would have been arrested.

She also took me to this beautiful lighthouse.

Once I got on the ferry it was off to the Vineyard with a few of the other bridesmaids, who also happen to be from the town I grew up in. It’s rare I get to see and catch up with some of the people I grew up with and their families. We all live all over the place, so it’s wonderful to get the time to see them again. During our ride this seagull was riding in the wind behind the ferry. He was over the open deck and we were convinced he was going to crap all over everyone on the deck. He turned just in time to crap over the ocean and you could hear an audible laugh/gasp from quite a few people. Thankfully he did not crap, because he was facing me. Also I know this is a boy seagull because I named him Livingston, like the book. Thus, he’s a boy.

Once we got to the island things get a little hairy in the photo department, but we did get to spend at least a few hours on South Beach, which I could see from our hotel. What you’re not seeing in this photo is a curious seal who kept popping their head up to look at us. There have also been sightings of great white sharks in this area since there is a big populations of seals.

I didn’t need some real life jaws action going on, so I dipped up to my knees and then hung out on the blanket with two of the other ladies for an hour or so.

So skip forward through all of the other wedding items, and this is the real reason I was there. This lady is my beautiful friend Laura, and she is about as big as a peanut. This was after a ceremony on a very windy beach so I look slightly disheveled.

Okay, let me explain why I actually look disheveled.

I loved my bridesmaid dress, and I still do. I would absolutely wear it other places.

After I reinforce the seams.

Why? Well. After the ceremony was over we were hanging out waiting for photos with the entire bridal party (there were 20 of us total including the bride and groom), I was joking with Laura about how I should have walked like Egor down the aisle since I have a slightly crooked back. While dragging my back leg in the sand it apparently put too much pressure on the seam down the back.

You get where I’m going with this?

The seam ripped RIGHT up to and just below my tush. And I had to take all of the formal photos with my dress in the wind…and my butt. Talk about a cool ocean breeze. I held it shut as much as I could, and profusely laughed, apologized and pretended I wasn’t mortified. We even took a jumping photo with all of the groomsmen behind all of the bridesmaids. Sorry dudes. I also ended up with giant scratch on my upper arm that I don’t know how I got. Must have been those Martha’s Vineyard gang members I single handed fought off. I’m tough. That or it was a branch on the path back. I can’t be sure.

Thankfully one of the bridesmaids had a safety pin on her, and we used it to pin my dress shut so I could walk back to the hotel with some dignity. I immediately grabbed a sewing kit, went into a bathroom in the bride and grooms cottage, and sewed that baby shut. Thank you Mom for teaching me how to sew. Also thank you for teaching me to laugh at situations you have no control over and could be considered hilarious.

After all was said and done I got up nice and early this morning and headed back home. It was a long morning, a long drive and I am tired, a little sick and sleepy as all get out. It was a wonderful time though.

I didn’t get to see a lot of the Vineyard, and I’m not sure I’d go back. Not because it isn’t beautiful, clearly it is. It just takes so darn long to get there and we’re not really summer island people.

We’re more of the set up a second woodshop in your garage and plane boards…which is exactly what I came home to.

More on that later. For now? Sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.



P.S. My friend Brittany, who is hands down one of the funniest people you may ever meet and I wish you could all know, says “hi” (she told me to tell you all that when at the wedding yesterday). Britt is a nutritionist and writes a blog about vegan cooking and yes, she has a vegan recipe for cadbury eggs. You’re welcome.

Britt, I told you I was using this photo. I know payback is coming.