I had this week off. It was a little unusual because I finished my job last Friday, and I don’t start the new one until Monday. So not only did I have the week off, but I had very little to think about. A friend of mine pointed out that I didn’t take any time off between finishing grad school and starting my last job, and she’s right. Maybe that’s why this week was all the sweeter.
The weather has gotten colder and throughout the week we had snow squalls. It feels so darn festive. I’ve been better able to appreciate the winter world not having to commute. It has been a weight off my shoulders not starting my day with a long, stressful drive.
Sleep was luxurious this week. I could read until late, sleep until my body naturally woke up (which I have learned, this time of year, is 8-8:30am). My alarm clock has just been a plain old clock this week. This sleep schedule brought me a certain kind of peace.
I have seen a handful of friends. lunches and a massage and tea dates. So lovely.
This has been one of the best weeks off, simply because I truly felt relaxed, while at the same time getting to do some of the things I have wanted to do. I didn’t over do it and book too many activities. I have found a calmness I haven’t seen in ages.
And for all of that, I am grateful. What are you grateful for today?
In this series I recommend all natural or organic products to help you and our dear Mutha (as we say in Maine) Earth live healthier.
The first sign of Fall for me, before the light really changes, the leaves turn red, or the cold creeps in, is dry skin. It’s like a light switch. One day it’s tan and hydrated and the next it’s flaky and dry. This year I’ve been combating it in a few ways. The first, is with Aloe.
This aloe from Jason is great (I also love this lotion from them, which is 70% aloe). It is moisturizing and healing, and it lets my skin breath. The best part is I can use it on my face without breaking out. If you have dry skin in the winter you have to try this stuff. It works wonders and it good for your skin. Even the best lotions never worked quite right on my face.
This stuff is hearty. I put it on just before bed, after I’m done washing my hands. It acts like a sealant, keeping all the moisture in. The oils in it create a barrier; once it is rubbed in water beads over your skin. This nightly routine is saving my hands this winter.
This lotion is made in small batches and is divine. I grew my own calendula this year, and have been reading about it, and was interested to see it in this lotion. The first ingredient is aloe (yes, there is a trend to all of these skin care products). The texture is rich and buttery. A very little goes a long way. It has been great on my driest spots, and at times I have even used it on my face.
Armed with this army of dry-skin fighters you should get through the cold, dry, winter months without any trouble.
December in Portland
Lights and snow and ticky-tacky houses and bean boots.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Are there new ones you’d like to start?
Trying my hand at making kombucha for the first time tonight. I was always so intimidated and thought I had to wait for the “right time*”. Turns out all you need is a good SCOBY/mother. A friend one floor down offered one up, so I brewed a gallon of black tea, mixed in some sugar, and accepted.
I’ll let you know if it’s good/terrible/drinkable/kills me.
*not even sure what that means when it comes to fermenting.
It’s dangerous in this town to make a sweeping statement about something or some place being the best. It’s a sure fire way to create an uproar.* But whatever. I’m going to take that risk.
In my opinion the best breakfast in town is at Caiola’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some hash browns and cheddar grits at Hot Suppa, but there is something truly special about Caiola’s. It’s the place you take your mother when she’s in town**. It’s where you take someone when it’s their birthday (bloody marys and two sizes of mimosas if it’s that kind of Sunday). Even the atmosphere is indulgent.
I have the horrible misfortune of not liking eggs, so I am limited in my options. But if I liked eggs I would love them at Caiola’s. They look and sound incredible (if you like eggs), and people rave about them. This morning my table shared a pumpkin coffee cake that was offensively delicious. My pancakes came soon after and they were literally cakes. I smeared them with greek yogurt (speckled with vanilla), added fruit and mint, and dipped them in syrup. As you might imagine I did not finish them. I made it to the half way point and caved. And then I didn’t eat again until 4:30pm (over six hours later).
Caiola’s only serves breakfast on Sundays and your best bet is to make a reservation. If you don’t make a reservation you’ll be hungry, waiting an hour, and the hostess will seem kind of unfriendly. Go on a cold morning and enjoy the ambiance - there’s always a sprinkle of Etta on the speakers, laced with other classics. And make sure to look at the specials menu. It changes often and is always decadent.
*also true when you say something isn’t what it used to be. I once made that mistake with Downtown Lounge. But, you know…
**like this morning. These photos probably make my dad wish he had come.
A year ago I deleted my Facebook account.*
It was actually the second time I had done this. The first time was a year before, and it was meant to be a break. And it was great. Which was what made it so easy to do the second time.
My reasons for getting off of Facebook** were pretty straight forward. People weren’t posting anything I found interesting. I found that people I liked in real life I didn’t like on Facebook. I was unimpressed with the running stream of people’s lives, posts that got more mundane over time. I was unable to use it creatively. I could only handle so many pictures of people’s pets, mothers complaining about their kids and boasting about how many glasses of wine they’d had, and at what time they’d started drinking, selfies (so many selfies), and the overall pissing contest that is Facebook.
There is some level of disconnect with people by not having Facebook. You do lose touch with some people. But what I’ve found is that you lose touch with the people that you naturally would have lost touch with if you didn’t have an artificial digital connection. I think that’s ok, because it’s natural to lose touch with people, just like it’s natural to make new friends. I find it can be exhausting trying to maintain a friendship with every person I’ve ever met. In contrast, it is really wonderful to see whom you do keep in touch with outside of social media, including some people you thought you’d drift apart from.
I read something in the New York Times last May that did a nice job of articulating the difference between Tumblr and Facebook:
”People…have found themselves drifting away from Facebook in favor of creative tools that encourage them to make things, rather than share every bit of minute detail about their lives.”
”There’s something about the creativity of strangers on these other platforms that seems more interesting and creative, even more than the people I know in real life.”
“The 300 million people who visit the site [Tumblr] each month come “not because their friends are here,” Mr. Karp said. “It’s because the content they want to consume and make is here.””
The one thing I miss is seeing photos of family members I do not see often, or very close friends’ children growing up. But it makes it all the sweeter when I do see these people, and it is much clearer to me that these bonds are forged out of real moments, not just brief, expected comments on a webpage.
When I think about Facebook now it seems out-of-date. Friends that I thought would be tethered to it for life have deactivated their accounts. Nothing meaningful is happening on Facebook. For me personally, it does not serve a purpose. I feel like I have more privacy in my life. Ultimately, I see Facebook as something I just don’t care about anymore.
*full disclosure, I selected the ‘I might be back’ option because at the time I thought, “meh, maybe”. I wish I had just wiped the slate clean.
**’getting off Facebook’ sounds like kicking a drug, huh?
In anticipation of being back in the Midcoast area soon I recently signed up for a membership to the Belfast Co-op. I think the idea of a traditional co-op model is lost on many people these days, especially those of my generation or younger.
When you join a co-op you’re buying a share of the business, and you’ll have a voice in how it is run. At the end of the year any surplus sales are returned to members. The Belfast co-op also provides bulk discounts to members (think 20% off trays of local, organic berries in the summertime), special member discount days, and member appreciation events. It’s a pretty rad way to support your community and eat healthy at the same time. This co-op in particular buys produce and products from local growers and businesses whenever possible.
The first time you sign up for three years upfront, although you can spread the payment out. For one adult it is $60 for three years. Each year after is $25, and only $10 for each additional adult in your family.
The Belfast Co-op is like the original Whole Foods before Whole Foods was around, but on a seriously local level. What’s not to love about that?
Make for one starry-eyed Monday.
The nights have been dark and cold and silent. I have been sleeping so deeply that I wonder where my mind goes during those strange hours. My complete and utter loss of consciousness leaves me feeling like my mind and my body have detached. I am both rested and more tired at the same time. Waking up to a gray morning (and a white ground) made getting out of bed tedious, even at 8am.
Thanksgiving was quiet in a way, but it also felt joyful and indulgent. It felt like Christmas some how, and now that Christmas is coming I feel spoiled, and like I’ve broken the rules and am getting away with it.
I am resentful of my vehicle and driving. I am eager to shed myself of that daily habit. I’m glad that I have made a choice for myself that allows me to be less tethered to my car. It is amazing the damage a long commute can do to a spirit. Soon I will be free.
This December 1st saw snow, just like the last. So many things are the same. So many are different. I am happy with the changes, and hopeful that they, and I, are moving ever forward in the right direction.
I’ve decided that next spring and summer I will take advantage of my surroundings and run the hiking trails I used to hike. I will get faster, and tougher, and feel connected to my homeland all the more.
December is for being grateful of all the things the past year brought. It is for relaxing and settling in and finding calm. It is for celebrating whatever in your life gives it meaning, and leaning a little further into it, for your own sake.
Decorations. Au naturale.
This week I’ve seen multiple trucks piled high with neatly stacked trees heading south on the interstate. I hope you enjoy your real Maine Christmas tree!
What it means to live Maine: Part II
you can read part I here.
To be a Mainer means to be a hard worker. Whether it be farming, working a trade, putting oneself through school, building one’s own house, running a business, being the neighborhood handyman, or just working a professional job. This State has a culture of working hard. There are few things as disappointing to people as laziness.
I think it goes back to our humble beginnings as those who worked the land and sea and fought off the harsh winter. Maine was slow to modernize and much of the population is still in rural areas where people make their living with their hands. Entitlement only comes from your own sweat and muscle and helping your neighbors.
I can’t think of a better embodiment of working hard than firewood. Trees have to be felled, cut into smaller pieces, chopped or split into logs, stacked to dry, lugged inside for the winter, and brought up to the wood stove every few days. When you heat with firewood at no point are you removed from the process.
A few weeks ago I visited my parents for ‘family firewood weekend’*. In a few hours we had roughly four cords stacked in the basement and garage so that my parents would be ready for the winter. There is no sugar coating it - firewood is mostly a hassle - but there’s something unique in having a hand in the hard work it takes to get fuel to your door. The trees came from my family’s land, my brother split the logs, and we all carried them inside, stacking rows upon rows, until the work was done.
There are many ways that people exhibit their work ethic, some more subtle than others. Working hard is part of what it means to live Maine.
*I am not joking.