Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Tri-ing for a Cure

A little more than a year ago, my cousin Stephanie completed active treatment for breast cancer. Now, just one week from today (on Sunday, July 17th), she’ll participate as a survivor in Tri for a Cure, a triathlon fundraiser put on by the Maine Cancer Foundation. Despite my love of words, I can’t find the ones to adequately express how proud I am of her strength, how inspired I am by her willingness to openly share her journey, and how much admiration I feel for the person she is.

To support Stephanie in reaching her fundraising goal of $2,000 and the Maine Cancer Foundation in their important work, I encourage you to visit Steph’s page. The Maine Cancer Foundation leads a state-wide effort to foster and grow the most promising and effective cancer-fighting efforts available to the people of Maine. Personally, I appreciate that their goals reflect prevention practices as well as improving patient outcomes and increasing screenings.

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Steph with her husband, Justo, and their two boys

Beyond Tri for a Cure, Stephanie is putting her entrepreneurial spirit, personal journey, and master’s degree in expressive arts therapy to work supporting those who have experienced or are experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury through Creative Transformations. Through sessions and workshops, Creative Transformations gives patients and survivors the tools to help process their emotional experience, supporting healing of mind, body, spirit, and self. I highly recommend visiting her website, following her blog, and contacting her if you feel so inclined – just by following her recent posts, I’ve gained new insights about myself and become more aware of how our experiences shape us.

Recent statistics show 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer in their lifetime. It is an unfortunate truth that we all know someone who has been impacted by a cancer diagnosis, and I’ve come to believe there are many important ways to heal that go beyond medical procedures and the physical body. Our mental and spiritual selves need attention, love, and support, as well. Through artistic expression, our emotions come to life through action – physically translating what we can’t put into words, whether that translation is on canvas, paper, clay, or another surface. Creative Transformations supports the holistic approach to healing that truly enables patients to become survivors in every sense of the word.

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Bringing Back Books? Yes, Please!

The phrase, ‘look for a book and look behind it,’ was frequently employed in my childhood home to describe my bookworm tendencies; I have vivid memories of being caught devouring novels in math class (apologies, Mr. Caulfield); and to this day, if I’m deep in a story, people can say my name repeatedly and receive no response (particularly annoying to my husband, I believe). I love to read – it’s like a mini-vacation just for me, every evening, and even though I now have a Kindle, there is simply nothing like reading a book in print. The entire sensory experience is different – from the way my eyes process the written word, to the tactile experience of feeling and turning pages, to the crisp smell reminiscent of wood and forest.

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So while we may indeed be seeing the end of the big bookstore, I’m thrilled that both new and established independent bookstores are finding success. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend reading this article from the Press Herald about independent bookstores in and around Portland, Maine: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/06/new-bookstore-opening-in-portland/

In conjunction with some statistics about childhood education I heard on the radio last week, this article inspired this post about bringing back the book. People may ask why, and how, these small, independent stores can be successful. Borders failed, despite their vast selection; Barnes & Noble struggles despite offering coffee and wifi – so how do the little guys do it?

First, as with all buying trends, this one too will change, but at the moment, we’re seeing a shift away from big box stores and rock bottom prices to a willingness to spend more for a great experience and support of local businesses (#buylocal, anyone?). I’d further speculate that like small tech startups, small bookstores can be more nimble than big stores with massive inventory. This agility enables them to respond more quickly to what their audience wants to read than a large, impersonal chain – which brings me to my second point: it is actually possible for them to know and learn what that audience wants (and no, I don’t mean by spending big bucks on big data analysis). This is the natural result of owners and team members being personally engaged in their communities and with their customers. These people know each other. They eat at the same restaurants, enjoy the same craft breweries, attend the same churches, etc etc.

From the expanding Gottwals Books here in Middle Georgia to Print, Longfellow Books, Sherman’s, and Letterpress Books in Maine (all referenced in the above article) – not to mention a charming, secondhand bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina that I can no longer remember the name of – these stores are listening and responding to what their communities need, and reaping the benefits.They may not be able to offer every book by every author that every patron wants, but the independent bookstore compensates for this with knowledgeable service and personal attention: if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, chances are they can help you find something similar – or possibly even better.

But to go beyond market influences and great customer service for a moment – the following summarizes just a snippet of what I heard on the radio recently:

  • Children comprehend and retain more of what they read from a printed book than an e-book (a big deal when you think about the fact that education is what gives us the power to change our lives)
  • People who read on screen take on average 10 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who read print – and are more likely to experience poor quality sleep (sleep is such an important part of your mental and physical health, and we are already too sleep-deprived as a nation)
  • The tactile and visual experience of turning pages and comprehending reading progress plays a role in both enjoyment and retention, and increases likelihood (in textbooks) of completing intermediate assessments of material

So I’m saying ‘hurrah’ to these independent bookstores, and good luck. Let’s bring back the books. Books have given me so many valuable adventures. They have broadened my horizons, provided escape, entertained and challenged me. Perhaps best of all, I can never read and experience one the same way twice. I’m constantly changing and growing, so the stories do, too.


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Fun in Maine: What to do this weekend?

After some snow showers on Friday, the weekend in Portland, Maine looks to be nice indeed for January – sunny, with temps in the 30s and even 40s. If you’re looking for something fun to do, here are a few ideas (thanks to mainetoday.com, The Frontier, and various other sites, for the event listings that contributed to this post!).  You can also check out Maine Today’s full listing of 11 events this weekend specifically, right here.

Portland On Tap Craft Beer Festival, Saturday, January 30th (where I’d be) – America On Tap brings you Portland On Tap this weekend with two sessions at the Cross Insurance Arena.  This event offers the opportunity to sample over 100 releases from the country’s top craft breweries, enjoy live music, and nosh on some delicious food.  The first session is from 1pm – 4pm, with the second session from 6pm – 9pm. Regular tickets are $35, and VIP are $55, but include a food voucher, t-shirt, and other upgrades (like an extra hour of festival fun).  For full details or to buy tickets, check the festival out here.  A quick look at the vendor list showed me a few Maine breweries like Allagash, Geary’s, and Gritty McDuff’s (among others), and I hope the Maine-based businesses are highlighted as they deserve to be!

Camden Winterfest, January 30th – February 7th – Camden brings you Camden Winterfest, a whirlwind week of winter events (how’s that for some alliteration?) that offer fun for the whole family.  The schedule of events includes Snow Sculpting Championships, a Polar Plunge, Snow Plow Parade, and US National Toboggan Championships – among many others!

Lost Valley Winter Duathlon, January 30th, 10am – noon – Do you love winter’s outdoor sports?  Looking to stay active and earn that Saturday night pizza and beer?  This is the event for you.  Lost Valley’s Winter Duathlon is a 10km course on which competitors nordic ski 5km, then snowshoe the remaining 5km.  Check it out here.

Oscar Nominated Shorts, Animated, February 2nd – 7th, various show times – The Frontier in Brunswick, Maine is one of my favorite entertainment venues.  Coupled with a restaurant serving exceptional food, you can’t go wrong.  Tonight’s Maine Short Film Festival is sold out, but don’t miss out on their upcoming series of showings of Oscar Nominated Shorts.

Located further Downeast?  Rockland’s The Strand Theatre features “West Side Story” this weekend, Sunday at 2pm!

Hit the Slopes: Outdoor Magazine named Sugarloaf one of the Best Winter Trips of 2016 (#truth).  If Sugarloaf is too intimidating, check out Mt. Abram Ski area – they even have a Full Moon Hike this weekend followed by live music.  Shawnee Peak night skiing is always a hit, too!

If you’re on a budget, there are still many great opportunities to get out and enjoy your community for free or at least on the cheap.  A few ideas, plus another listing gem from Maine Today:

Portland Museum of Art: Free on Fridays evenings from 5pm – 9pm – so go get some culture.

Portland Comedy Showcase: $5, 8pm on Wednesday nights at Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street.  Good for a laugh!

Trivia Night: Free, 7pm on Tuesday nights at Elements Books Coffee Bar in Biddeford.  I am loving the renaissance Biddeford is having these days – such a neat, historic town! (oh, and Elements serves beer!)

Free / inexpensive outdoor adventures abound in Maine in the winter: from snowshoeing, to cross country skiing, to sledding and ice skating – this is really what winter is all about!


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Football Monday…

It’s a Monday, and it’s been a while.  Like everyone, we had a busy holiday season and it was quite a whirlwind.  From my parents’ and sister’s Christmas visit (hooray!) to a quick New Year’s trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate with the in-laws and fun friends, we’re now back home and playing host to a potential transfer employee thinking about making the move to Macon.  I say well worth it!

Family Fun at Just Tap'd in Macon!

Family Fun at Just Tap’d in Macon!

 

Watching Clemson beat Oklahoma... Go Tigers!

Watching Clemson beat Oklahoma… Go Tigers!

Despite being a bit worn out, this is one Monday during which I won’t complain.  It’s a football Monday, after all – and my Tigers play tonight for the College Football National Championship – a game we haven’t been in since before I was born.  I’m excited and anxious and, like most Clemson fans, more than a bit insulted by all the “expert” picks.  I hope we roll right over the Tide and they all have to eat their words.  I guess we’ll see tonight!

Next time will be less holiday recap and more “Maine,” so stay tuned for an upcoming post on a popular new restaurant in Portland, The Honey Paw!


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Recipe: Apple Crisp Pie

This recipe seemed particularly appropriate to share as many readers are Christmas menu planning and prepping.  It was a hit at our Thanksgiving table, and I’m pleased to report that (courtesy of prepared crust) it was easy as well as delicious.  That’s about all I require in a baked good – because I am not a baker.

Apple pie is a classic holiday dessert, and by far my favorite treat year-round.  At some point in my childhood (my mom likely remembers exactly when), I fell in love with apple pie and began requesting it for every special occasion.  No cake for me, thanks – I’ll have my birthday candles on a pie, and so on.  Over the years, I’ve developed into a bit of a pie snob, which has led me to the unfortunate conclusion that if I like my apple pie just so, I need to make it myself – or spend a fortune at carefully-vetted local bake shops.

This decided, I bravely forged ahead and have attempted apple pie from scratch on more than one occasion, but after two minimally successful and one absolutely disastrous experience with homemade crust, I made a key concession: purchasing prepared crust.  If I loved to bake, I might find some strange pleasure in the painstaking blending of flour and (ice) cold water and the subsequent torturous rolling out of crust (and then the true frustration: attempting to peel your now beautifully flat, round crust off the countertop, only to discover that it’s basically bonded in place except for the edges, which will gleefully separate and crumble into to useless bits – not that I’m speaking from personal experience…), but see, this is just not my cup of tea.  Whiskey, on the other hand, might get me through it.

And to be completely honest, my pie snobbery does not extend to the crust.  Once baked, I can’t tell the difference between a nice, prepared crust and one made from scratch – and frankly, if I could, I think Pillsbury would be in the lead.  Not to mention, everyone around me is much happier as a result of this small adjustment (i.e. Nick).  So prepared crust it is.

I remember reading this recipe for the first time and exclaiming, “look – it actually CALLS for prepared crust!”  A dream apple pie recipe if ever there was one.  It comes from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen and is the perfect combination of a pie and a crisp – with a crisp’s crumbly, sugary topping.

This pie serves 8, and you’ll need:

  • 5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I actually like to use a blend of sweet and tart apples, rather than all Granny Smith)
  • 1 prepared (!) 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar and blend in the softened butter, then set aside.  Place the apples in the prepared pie crust, and grate nutmeg and cinnamon over top (for the record, I pre-tossed my apples with nutmeg, cinnamon, and the dash of salt so the flavors would be throughout the pie).  I also added just a bit of almond milk, but any cream would do, if you like a slightly creamer finish.  Cover with the flour and sugar mixture – for the crisp top – and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife goes easily into the fruit when tested.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Don’t judge my pie or my photography… I’m not Martha Stewart.  Just know that this pie not only lived up to, but exceeded my (lofty) expectations.

Happy holidays!


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Kickstarting Winter in Maine

It may seem ironic to suggest that Maine “comes alive” at this time of year, when leaves are falling, days are growing shorter, and most are thinking about getting out the electric blanket and hibernating for winter, but that is simply how I think of it.  Spring, with its fresh buds and abundance of mud, will be welcome when it arrives, but late fall and winter bring their own energy to the state.

Winter is for the people of Maine.  Oh, you’ll find a tourist here and there as well as the New Englanders from surrounding states who come to enjoy the skiing, but primarily, it is Mainers themselves who embrace what Maine has to offer in this season.  With the advent of the holidays and winter weather comes the opening of Sunday River and Sugarloaf, ski (and snowboard) sales like the big, annual Down East Ski Club’s 53rd Annual Ski Sale, prepping of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and more – all focused on opportunities to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Maine outdoors, even in the colder months.

On the heels of Small Business Saturday, I felt compelled to write a post highlighting some recently published, timely resources.  Maine’s small businesses are the economic engines of the state and provide most of the employment opportunities, so let’s continue to support them through this season and the full year!

First, it is the holidays and many people will be Christmas tree shopping in the coming weeks.  I’ve posted on this topic in years past, but this year I recommend checking out this list from MaineToday.com.

If you make it to Sugarloaf this season, be sure to stop in the new Burton Signature store and say hello to my brother, Ed, in between runs.  Snowboarders rejoice – a store of their own, right on the mountain!  In other news at the Loaf, this week is Locals’ Week – depending on your residence, you ski free through Friday!

Not far from the Loaf is the Rangeley Lakes area – an outdoorsman’s dream in the Maine winter.  Featuring Saddleback Mountain, snowmobile trails, ice fishing, and cross-country ski trails, it has something for everyone (including cozy cabins if you’d rather be inside with a book).

If you’re looking for good local Christmas shopping, look no further than renowned shopping hubs in the Old Port and Freeport.  A few of my favorite stores for holiday gifts: D. Cole Jewelers (husbands, take note); LeRoux Kitchen; and the Maine Potters Market. Other fun, local ideas: head into a craft brewery and grab a gift card, tee shirt, or six-pack for the beer lover in your life; take a tip from Northeast Whitewater and give the gift of a Maine experience (not to mention, studies show people who have experiences / travel / learn new things are happier than those who have an accumulation of goods); or for your skiers and boarders, check out this gift-giving guide.

The state of Maine has something to offer everyone.  When I reflect on the many things it’s given me, I feel truly blessed.

Happy holidays!


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Family Recipe: Cherry Tomato Pasta

This recipe is a Shevenell original, and I’m honored / excited / proud to share it.  My brother, Ed, is the creative mastermind behind this flavorful blend of veggies, olive oil, butter, and wine, which can be served over pasta or a “noodle” like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.  This meal is delicious and good for you – especially if you go the 100% veggie route.

Mom and I whipped this up during her visit to Georgia, and it will become a regular in my cooking rotation (get ready, Nick).  Ed has a knack for coming up with new recipes and unexpected flavor profiles that taste spectacular, and this is no exception.

Serves 2-4
You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, your preference)
  • Worcestershire sauce (just a drizzle)
  • 1-2 cups white or red wine, or chicken stock (or a combination;quantity depends on your preference)
  • Noodles of your choice (or spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini)

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and saute until tender.  Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, continuing to cook over medium high heat until the tomatoes blister, burst, and start becoming tender.  At this point, add your wine and/or chicken stock and allow ingredients to simmer.

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We made our sauce with a blend of white wine and chicken stock, approximately 1 1/2 cups total, and it was excellent – the rich qualities of the broth and the acidity of the wine created a nice blend to complement the other flavors.

Allow the mixture to simmer while the wine reduces, approximately 10 minutes, then add your noodles, squash, or spiralized zucchini.  Continue to simmer for a few minutes, or until squash or zucchini is soft.  Ed likes to go with zucchini for the nutty flavor it introduces.

You can also easily incorporate meat in this recipe, just vary when you add it depending on cooking requirements.  To keep it easy, Mom and I went with cooked Italian chicken sausage, which also made this a heartier dinner.  Other good additions would be: cooked chicken, shrimp, or a flaky white fish.  For even more nutrient value, you can toss in some leafy greens like spinach or kale.

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Recognize the shape of that cutting board? #ME

This is one of those recipes I love because you can stray from it a little bit or vary it to work with the ingredients you have, and it will still deliver delicious results.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I hope you try it – and enjoy!