The Old Pine Tree
Blue

Blue is the color of February.

Blue

Blue is the color of February.

Town line

Skiing over the town line (and back).

Some day I want to see if enough of these trails connect and I can get all the way to a friend’s house. I think it would be fun to pop over on skis.

Warming up

Ending a cold sunny day (on a frozen lake in a valley between Camden Hills) at a warm bar. Marshall Wharf/3 Tides tends not to disappoint. Even the music is great.

Warming up

Ending a cold sunny day (on a frozen lake in a valley between Camden Hills) at a warm bar. Marshall Wharf/3 Tides tends not to disappoint. Even the music is great.

Losing my religion

I am mostly a vegetarian. I know that many people would not consider me a vegetarian and I don’t care. I consider myself a vegetarian “for all intents purposes.”  I eat a little bit of seafood from time to time (like on hot summer days at a lobster shack by the sea), and once or twice a year I have a few bites of meat if it is local, free range, antibiotic free, etc, and I know where it came from. For example, my father shot a deer this year, so I have had some of that.

The reason I first became a vegetarian was for the experience. I was strict for a year. The reason I stayed a vegetarian (going on 8 years now) was because I felt better and because I did not support the meat industry in the U.S. Our practices are atrocious. News reports and documentaries make me sick. I don’t want any part of that, and I refuse to support it. I also refuse to put that in my body. The reason I began to lighten up and become less strict was because, at least here in Maine, it is becoming almost easy to access responsibly raised meat. The small community I am apart of in midcoast Maine even allows me to have access to wild meat. This is pretty special. When I come across this type of meat I can’t find a reason not to have a little of it (I’m not talking about a big plateful here).

Many people claim that humans don’t need to eat meat because they are so inactive. This might be true generally, but I’m pretty active. I’ve lived off of plant-based protein during peak marathon training, and in my opinion, for my individual body, it just helps me survive but doesn’t necessarily provide me with everything I need to perform at my best. Do you know what I think would help me perform at my best? A little bit of meat from time-to-time, especially when I’m running 55 miles a week. I think that level of activity probably puts me in the hunter-gatherer category.

Vegetarians are a righteous group. I can be righteous about how bad the food industry as a whole is in the United States. I don’t believe that we shouldn’t eat animals though. I believe that we are meant to eat a little bit of meat. Not that we have to, but that it is in our make-up. It’s ok if you disagree; I understand and I don’t begrudge you.

I am very seriously considering renouncing my vegetarian tiara and instead titling my diet conscientious meat eater. This means not eating very much meat. It means eating locally raised, free range, chemical free meat the limited times that I do eat it. It means eating wild meat from time to time. I will rarely, if ever, order meat at a restaurant, or have it at someone’s house unless it came from a source I consider to be reputable. In other words, not much will change. All natural, all the time. Once in a while, that might include meat now.

City of snow and brick

City of snow and brick

In Review: The Gothic

A few years ago the Gothic flat iron building in Belfast (the first bank that ever established itself in this newly hip, surprisingly authentic coastal town so many years ago) was on the market and I had the privilege of going inside and seeing all three floors. It is a stunning building, inside and out.

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It recently became The Gothic restaurant, and I have been eager to step inside and see (taste?) what all the buzz was about. It’s easy to be a newspaper or magazine reviewer, take some staged shots, and say the food is great and it is just what this sometimes sleepy sometimes not little City needs. It’s another to be a local and not have anyone to answer to.

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check out those ceilings 

From what I have read and from what I could see, there is a philosophy at The Gothic of what you might call Sensible Eating. As someone whose vegetarian values are slowly evolving to a less strict diet, I can relate to this type of thinking. It’s about eating smart. 

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What’s your preference?

Belfast needs a little decadence, and The Gothic pulls it off with just a hint of casualness, which is key around here. I was part of a party of five people, so I was lucky enough to not only enjoy my own meal, but to sample a little of everyone else’s.

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The dinner menu

I started with a glass of the house white wine which was great. They had an intriguing, seasonally appropriate cocktail list that I was eager to try to see how the bartender fared. A friend ordered the Gothic 75 which was a classic, solid combo that did not disappoint. I tried the Mission Gin and Tonic which was adventurous. I can’t say that I loved it, but I appreciated that they were trying to go outside the box a little. I liked what they were trying to do with it. 

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The drink menu

Let’s get to the food, because it was definitely the highlight. First we were all presented with an amuse bouche of kimchi wrapped in cabbage. Geez. Could they have made a better first impression on me?

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Amuse Bouche

I started with the lobster raviolis, of course. This did not disappoint. There was lobster in the raviolis, and they were plated with big chunks of lobster meat. While it was not a plate full (this was an appetizer, after all) there was enough for me to share a few bites and still get my fill. I also got to try the kale salad; a heaping plate of greens and goodies. I didn’t try the beet salad, but it looked delicious, and it’s on my list of things to try next time.

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Lobster ravioli

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Beet salad

For an entree I had the sea scallops and they were perfection. They were some of the best, if not the best seared scallops I’ve ever had. They were buttery and moist and came apart just perfectly, with nice, crusty ends. I can’t stop thinking about those scallops and how perfect they were. I asked if I could sub the regular potatoes with horseradish potatoes and they accommodated like it was nothing (big points for that one fellas). My only suggestion is to kick up that horseradish. A few people commented that they couldn’t really taste it. Both the lobster ravioli and the scallops had mushrooms. They were nice, rich editions to both dishes.

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Sea scallops

Two people at the table had the duck. This dish required the torching of some pine garnish to add fragrance to the dish. Pretty snazzy.

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Torched pine

We finished the meal with various ice creams. They made another concession and allowed someone in our party to order just the ice cream that came on the side of a dish. The waiter proved to be a pretty cool guy.

Overall, the food was great, the atmosphere was wonderful (although I was a little put off by some loud, bad, late-90s top 40 music at one point). It’s a little pricey but Belfast needs a place like this. Any city should have a balance and Belfast was missing an upscale restaurant. The Gothic accomplishes this and more. Quite frankly, the food is wonderful, and worth a special occasion and your regular patronage.  

Now, how long should I wait before trying their brunch? 

These Days

I’ve been really into peaches. I have decided that the best way to get them this time of year is canned, in pear juice (avoid the syrup folks). I can’t find frozen ones that don’t come with other fruit, and the canned ones are packed nice and full. I am putting them in smoothies with strawberries and next week I will add ginger to the mix. And maybe some lime.

My new indulgence has been blue cheese stuffed olives from the olive bar at the grocery store. My aunt turned me onto them, and I can’t get enough of their rich saltiness.

We are getting snow tomorrow and I am glad. I’m glad because I don’t have to drive to get to work, and I haven’t gotten nearly enough xc-skiing or snowshoeing in.

Not having an hour commute anymore has allowed me to get an extra hour of sleep each day. I’m much better for it, as you might imagine.

I have been successfully writing letters (‘success’ is measured by someone being willing to take the time to write back) with a friend and I’m truly enjoying the practice of writing, reading, sending, and receiving mail. Letters feel like tangible pieces of someone. There’s something more meaningful about reading someone’s written words versus quickly scanning over them in an e-mail. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but trust me, it’s there. When I sit down to write a letter I instantly feel creative.

I went running the last three out of four days, and the one day I didn’t I did yoga. In a matter of days I can feel more myself and hold off any incoming winter blues. I’m always happy to take a break from running myself into the ground, and I’m always happy to get back to it. This year it will be all about the trails and I’m itching with excitement.

This weekend I’ll be reporting from the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. Bring your long undies.

Shallots and sherry vinegar

A decadent combination that will make any salad dressing slurp worthy.

Shallots and sherry vinegar

A decadent combination that will make any salad dressing slurp worthy.

Grateful Friday

Right now I’m grateful:

That this cold weather should at least kill a lot of ticks. Maybe they won’t be so bad next year.

For the badass LLBean down comforter from 1920 or something that weighs as much as me and kept me warm even when my room got down to 51 at night.*

For the option to stand at work, for days that I’m not up and out and about.

For enjoyable, interesting employment.

For kombucha and fermentation and all its mind blowing benefits.

For organic lavender essential oil and chamomile tea to prepare my racing mind for sleep after night meetings.

For wool and flannel and more wool.

For Darjeeling tea with milk and honey

For a window at work that lets so much sun in that come 3pm I feel like a cat on a couch.

For my new commute: a 5 minute walk. For not getting in my car (a cold car, at that), for days.

For ripe bartlett pears

For Sussudio, by Phil Collins (and Phil, in general)

For Eli

What are you grateful for today?

*Tell me I’m not rugged, I dare you.

Hello again 

Getting reacquainted with my guitar.

Hello again

Getting reacquainted with my guitar.

The best time of your life

A few months ago someone told me that this should be the time of my life. The statement immediately weighed me down. Thankfully, someone I respect told me that while some people might find a similar stage in life to be “the best”, many people find it stressful, and that it was just as normal to feel that way. I found truth in that statement and felt the weight of expectation and disappointment leave me.

Our culture has a way of telling us that we should always be happy, and that every major event in a life should be “the happiest time in your life.” People told me this in college. “You’re free to pursue and do anything! Do not let anything get in your way! Enjoy this! You should be having the time of your life!” People said the same thing after college. They said the same thing before grad school, during grad school, etc. People are told this when they fall in love, even when they are heartbroken, when they get engaged, married, have children, see those children leave the nest, and so on.

I propose a new message. The happiest times in your life will probably be random, unexpected, unremarkable moments. It’s ok if the big, seemingly exciting things scare the shit out of you, or stress you out to the point of doubt and confusion (I changed minors in college and majors in grad school), or make you worry, or question your good intentions and peace of mind. The really important things will probably feel like a weight, at least some of the time, simply because you’re in touch with how important they are.

The best times in my life have been moments of contentedness. I am letting go of the expectation that they be anything more.

 

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.
Today, by the sea

The sun is shining so brightly against the ocean that it hurts my eyes.

Little Tap House

Last weekend a friend and I went to Little Tap House on the corner of High and Spring in Portland. Knowing that I was soon leaving Portland for the Midcoast area, this was one spot I hadn’t tried and knew I had to. The food menu is heavy on meat, so we ate somewhere else in order to appease my dietary restrictions. 

The space in Little Tap House has been nicely redone. We sat at the bar in order to be as far away from the cold air at the door as possible. Sitting inside felt like being at a neighborhood bar, even though the interior is designed to be a little bit more. The West End has been lacking neighborhood bars since Downtown Lounge became cooler than flannel and PBR about two years ago. The young hipsters might roll their eyes at the $6 beers at Little Tap House, but let me assure you, they are good beers.

A new bar needs to have a good bartender and good beers on tap. LFK fails in my eyes time and time again on both of those fronts. I’ve never had a good cocktail there (always too strong, and I have heard people also say they can also be watered down, when ice is left to sit too long in a shaker), and while they carry good beer, they are consistently out of it. A nice woman I went to high school with works there, and the owner is from the same county I grew up in, so I feel bad saying that, but those are the facts. 

Little Tap House nailed the cocktails and their taps were full of good beer. I liked that they carried half a dozen Maine breweries, and many others were from the northeast. There weren’t any filler beers on the menu. If you enjoy beer, you will enjoy Little Tap House. 

The bartender was friendly. It took him 20 minutes to remember my water after ordering a mixed drink, but he made up for it by refilling any empty glasses before they could even make contact with the bar, and by taking $30 off our final tab. I’m not sure how that happened. When he handed us a bill that was barely over $10 I tried to protest, but he insisted that there was an end of the night discount. Ok buddy, fine by me. You were getting a good review anyway.

Little Tap House

Last weekend a friend and I went to Little Tap House on the corner of High and Spring in Portland. Knowing that I was soon leaving Portland for the Midcoast area, this was one spot I hadn’t tried and knew I had to. The food menu is heavy on meat, so we ate somewhere else in order to appease my dietary restrictions.

The space in Little Tap House has been nicely redone. We sat at the bar in order to be as far away from the cold air at the door as possible. Sitting inside felt like being at a neighborhood bar, even though the interior is designed to be a little bit more. The West End has been lacking neighborhood bars since Downtown Lounge became cooler than flannel and PBR about two years ago. The young hipsters might roll their eyes at the $6 beers at Little Tap House, but let me assure you, they are good beers.

A new bar needs to have a good bartender and good beers on tap. LFK fails in my eyes time and time again on both of those fronts. I’ve never had a good cocktail there (always too strong, and I have heard people also say they can also be watered down, when ice is left to sit too long in a shaker), and while they carry good beer, they are consistently out of it. A nice woman I went to high school with works there, and the owner is from the same county I grew up in, so I feel bad saying that, but those are the facts.

Little Tap House nailed the cocktails and their taps were full of good beer. I liked that they carried half a dozen Maine breweries, and many others were from the northeast. There weren’t any filler beers on the menu. If you enjoy beer, you will enjoy Little Tap House.

The bartender was friendly. It took him 20 minutes to remember my water after ordering a mixed drink, but he made up for it by refilling any empty glasses before they could even make contact with the bar, and by taking $30 off our final tab. I’m not sure how that happened. When he handed us a bill that was barely over $10 I tried to protest, but he insisted that there was an end of the night discount. Ok buddy, fine by me. You were getting a good review anyway.

Take a stand
When I started my new job I was allowed to pick out whatever desk I wanted. I knew without a moment’s hesitation what I would get: a standing adjustable desk.

I also ordered a side table so that I could sit when need be, or have a place to spread work out.

Last July Runner’s World published an article claiming that sitting is the new smoking, even for distance runners. It really hit home for me, because up until very recently, my job required me to be in the car two hours a day three days a week, and then sit at a desk for just about 9 hours. 11 hours of sitting three days a week was unpleasant. I noticed the difference even at the peak of my marathon training. My body didn’t feel quite as in shape as the last marathon I had ran (at that time I was walking to work). It can’t be good running 20 miles one day and then sitting for 11 hours the next.

My new job requires me stand much more (hallelujah), but the standing desk was an opportunity for me to prevent my job from getting in the way of my healthy lifestyle.

Interestingly, a standing desk takes some getting used to. I don’t intend to ever stand all day, but I have found that my body, used to sitting all day, wants to sit. It rebels against standing. I see this as a transition, balancing the two, and getting used to standing more over time.

I have noticed that standing is particularly nice when I first get to work. I feel more awake and it feels natural to be up instead of starting the day slumped in a chair.

I hope that over time this contributes to my overall well being. So far, it has already improved at least my mind set. I recommend giving it a try, and I’m grateful for a job that is understanding of employee satisfaction.