Saturday, November 29, 2014

Freeport shopping

Yesterday I packed up and made my way to Freeport, Maine. It must be one of the most picturesque and unique outlet villages I’ve ever been to. With the Christmas season starting the lights it looked even more amazing. The mothership of all LLBean stores added the large, ball shaped ‘bulbs’ in the barren trees --- so beautiful.

I was very tempted --- a bright red (season colored) 4 Qt Staub Cocotte for $99!

Friday, November 28, 2014

White Black Friday

The turkey is eaten, the pumpkin pie devoured, thanks were had, and the night was long with stories and strong coffee at 8pm. The landscape is still white on this black Friday, and the first online deal with 20% off at Athleta was grabbed. The remaining options are a) to head out in the woods for fresh air and more snowshoeing, or B) pack up in the car to explore the stores…

Thursday, November 27, 2014

White Thanksgiving

Normally, we are happy about white Christmas, so peaceful and festive that even songs are written about it. This year we are blessed with White Thanksgiving. 14 inches of new powder, having arrived on Thanksgiving morning. Ok, so after we dig ourselves out, we will be thankful. The landscape looks like winterwonderland, the snow powdery, the sky blue and the sun bright. This combination has a significant effect on most people: they get the skis out.

While I prepare for the day, I glance through my email inbox, and humming to myself the tantric wisdom of JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out). “I don’t really need anything… I am good. I am immune. I have everything I need. I don’t even like a Canon Rebel T5, not even if it is 50% off.” Ah, yes, all those deals of all those things I potentially want. But not need. Can I close my eyes, and let this Black Friday after White Thanksgiving pass me by this year? Or will I get up electrified tomorrow morning, and jump in my car, and explore, caving fully to FOMO?

The wise plan is likely to figure out ahead of time, what I really need. Instead of being part of a swarm of shoppers, collectively tipsy from a Black Friday high, rummaging through the stores, leaves shelves look like they’ve been hit by the 8th plague.

These are things I ended up buying, before Black Friday:

  • Smartwool! I love the smartwool socks, warm, real wool, undestructible, even by washing and tumble-drying them. This fall I discovered their crew and bottom line. I have 2 tees and one base layer bottom. I could live in those (Note: when you sign up, you get up to $20 off your first order!)
  • After much ordered and returning, I settled on the Keen Wilma Lace boots. Comfortable, easy to get on, toe space and superlight.
  • They go perfectly with my new Tubbs Wilderness snowshoes.
  • This beautiful JCrew vest is still in the mail.
Then it was time for the wilderness adventure...


 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberries in the Garden

Thanksgiving break is finally here. It is very mild today, temps in the lower 50s. This invites me to go for a walk or hike. The forecast, however, says that the weather will mess with Thanksgiving. Wednesday into Thursday morning… 10 inches of new snow are expected. We’ll have to dig out for that Thanksgiving turkey. At least Black Friday has sunshine all the way to the shops.

I have been doing much of my pro-winter shopping online this year. Several pairs of heavy duty snow shoes that can be worn for hikes or snow shoes arrived already at my house, but they were either too large, and bulky or too small, and I piled up into a tower of boxes for the UPS store since they are all going back. However, the lightbox that came in the mail is finally the right size --- and was immediately repurposed by Chanelle, who claims it as his cat house. “Tape me up, Scotty!”

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I also harvested the small batch of cranberries that grow on a tree next to my house. They are a bitter, European variety (Preiselbeeren), but make a fabulous, small batch of cranberry sauce, or something more attractive for the American palate when they are mixed with regular cranberries, just adding a slightly bitter note, like a cocktail bitter/aromatic.

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On a winter salad, with romaine, curly kale, sauteed mushroom and pomegranate seeds with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, they are just… a d├ęcor.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

My gift to you

Thanksgiving ahead – giving thanks and handing out real gifts (i.e. I don’t get paid, and it’s all for you). Here are a few promotions I’d like to share for today.

Get a FREE Starbucks breakfast sandwich today and tomorrow!

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Use code 2257.

Get 15% off at Heath Ceramics (beautiful ceramics and this is the only deal they ever offer).

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Deal: Now through Sunday, November 23, use promo code ANNUALSALE to get 15% off all online orders*, plus free ground shipping within the US on orders of $125 or more. So sit back and relax—all you have to do is click.

And, yes, it is 50% off at Gap today if you use a Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic card.

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Unfortunately, these twins are not for sale, but also a very sweet deal (check them out on instagram by following Donald for the daily gift of joy of heart).

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Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chestnut Praline Latte

The time to the Thanksgiving week slowly trickles down, ….counts down. I bought my first bag of Starbucks Christmas blend the other day. It must be my favorite blend each year. I often buy several bags, and then they last until spring. Best coffee ever. I also saw that this year there is a chestnut praline latte, which sounds like something I definitely have to try out.

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I make time again to bring my own salad to work.

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Instead of living off gluten-free softbatch cookies all day.

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The unanswered question of winter running tights.

I assume, everyone is cold today. Maine does not even make headlines because everyone expects it to be cold, and when it is cold in Atlanta, who cares about Maine?  – Honestly, it is not even that cold here yet), only barely 30F and no wind chill. The arctic invasion warms up until it gets here.

I am in preshopping mode. Pre-holiday/black Friday shopping mode. I check out the glove section and put on Northface XS womens gloves. “These would be nice! So warm and cozy.” An evil voice in my head says “What about when it is January and –30F. Will you be warm then?” I shiver and put them back. The same happens when I see a woman running like a gazelle over snow covered grounds in simple “winter warm” tights. “Hmmm…” does the evil voice say “does this company really know anything about ‘winter training in Maine’? or do these ‘winter pants’ only work for ‘winter in Arizona’ ?”.

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Good point. --- In Maine, I probably have to wear at least 2 or 3 of these. On top of each other. Nevertheless, I am adamant about getting outside in the winter, for some hikes, snow shoeing or skiing, and warm clothes are the key ingredient to stay warm and make it fun. It is also more fun if they look good.

The question of flexible running tights for the deep cold is left unanswered at this point. I wonder what people actually wear when it is 20F below. Ski pants are great for cross country skiing but too heavy and stiff for running (more looking like a robot running). oh well. First world problems.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Softbatch cookies (gluten-free)

It is another week until Thanksgiving break. The weather is slowly warming up to winter (or snowing up?). It is much chillier now when hiking but still doable without snow shoes.






Today, I created another version of the candy corn cookies --- gluten-free. Replacing the all-purpose flour with King Arthur all-purpose GF flour and some quinoa flour worked out very well. Since they are for a friend, I just made half the batch with candy corn, and the other half with chocolate chips, cranberries and sliced almonds. Perfect hiking food, too….

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Candy Corn Softbatch Cookies (Glutenfree)
  • 1/2 cup/1 stick unsalted butter, soften
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1.5 cups Glutenfree all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur flour)
  • 0.5 cup quinoa flour
  • 3 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix (or cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional and to taste
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • ca. 1 cup candy corn
  • Or instead of candy corn:
    • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl and electric hand mixer), cream together the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla extract and milk on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flours, salt, baking soda and pudding mix.
  4. Put speed on low, and slowly added the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute; don't overmix.
  5. Add the white chocolate chips, and mix until just incorporated. (No candy corn yet! But if you make the other version, add all the remaining ingredients.)
  6. Using a small icecream scoop, (or any size of icecream scoop you like based on the size of the cookies you would like to make) form heaping 1 – 1 1/2 –tablespoon sized mounds.
  7. Press about 2-3 candy corn inside of the cookie dough ball (if using).
  8. Place mounds on baking sheet, ca. 8 cookies per cookie sheet, and bake for about 9 minutes. Do not overbake since the cookies will firm up as they cool. Baking longer than 10 minutes will make cookies spread too thin, the candy corn getting contact with the cookie sheet and starting to melt.
  9. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for about at least 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooking. They will be sticky because of the slightly melted candy corn.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kale Pesto Spaghetti

This morning, I woke up feeling a cold coming on. Since it was a day with no meetings I decided to take it easy and work from home. Lunch was particularly delicious --- a kale pesto! This is almost (or is it?) as delicious as a basil pesto since most of the flavor punch comes from the garlic/nuts/salty cheese combination. This is a slimmed down version, and replaces much of the cheese (and its salt) with a bit of mild, yellow miso but does not omit all of the cheese, with the addition of some feta, which goes extremely well with the robust kale. Lunch was delicious!

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Kale pesto starts out with some torn lacinato kale leaves (for a two portions 4-5 leaves are enough). Add in a quarter cup sliced almonds.

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Add 1 TB mild, yellow, sodium reduced miso and about 4oz of feta cheese and 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped.

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Add 1 TB olive oil and about 2-3 TB water. Mix away!

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Cook about (2 x) 2 oz of spaghetti, and once cooked al dente (ca 12 min depending on brand) toss with about 2 TB of kale pesto. Serve with some feta or goat cheese crumbles!
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Chanelle was also checking out his greens…

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A single area code

The weather is sunny and mild, when a larger part of the country experiences the first named snowstorm. The devastating “Halloween” snow storm in Maine does not count because the population affected (600,000) was not  large enough (needs 2 Million). This is what happens if you live in a large state with just 1.8 Mio inhabitants overall. Yes, we are very spread out here in Maine. Most of the people live in Portland or right on the coast. We get away with one area code for the whole state. But, alas, who needs a snowstorm when it looks like fall again. The snow is gone and many trees still have leaves, and the grass is green.

Times at work are busy and I hardly get around to cook. If I do, it is too dark to photograph it. By 4:30pm it is dark anyhow. By December, it will be dark at 3:30pm. So, just a few links today.

This one made me laugh --- kids who are unfamiliar with cameras that - gasp! - use film. "How did you live?" I asked that myself, all that money we paid for picts.


How long-lasting relationships come down to 2 traits: kindness and generosity

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Eating out

It was an international festival at work, and it brought out many people, wearing their traditional colorful clothes from their home country, and (my favorite part) cooking fabulous flavorful dishes. Since some of my favorite people (and excellent cooks!) were participating up this year, I made sure to arrive early. It is great to see the traditional garb worn with culture pride on such days, with all the diversity international culture has to offer. And, … I had some fantastic Indian and Sri Lanka food plus a Saudi Arabian rice pudding.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

And then there was snow

So, we went from this beautiful fall…..

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…. right to this:

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It snowed all day yesterday, and the power went out several times. At some point I got the snow blower roaring and blasting snow billows to the side of the drive way. Unfortunately, the snow blower did not like the heavy, sleet saturated snow too much and at some point the chute clogged up. Ah, living in the Northeast.

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(those leaves are normally under the snow). I maneuvered the snow blower back to the garage and got the shovel out. At that point the town’s snow truck zipped by and swiftly lined up all the heavy snow from the street to.. my neighbor’s driveway and locking him in behind a 5 foot snow wall. Typically, that happens to my side.

This morning I peeked outside. Tons of kids playing could only mean one thing: snow day! The temperatures dropped and it froze overnight, and now those driveway snow walls are frozen solid. But the sun is out, the snow is slowly dripping, and I made my rounds and shook trees and brushes off their heavy load, helping the to stand up again.

When Athleta informed me about new winter wear this morning, I immediately zoomed in on this promising candidate: The adidas Choleah boot. It looks like a great “run in the snow and stay dry’ shoe. Or just a good shoe to wear while snowblowing, or to walk the dog?

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Well, it might be another 2 months until the next snow storm but winter is coming.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

An early winter storm

These are the days when there is the big divide between Florida and Maine. In Florida, people rave about the perfect, low-humidity, bright sunshine weather when they finally can get outside during the days and run endlessly. In Maine, we experience the first snowstorm of the winter season with a 12 inches of heavy, wet snow. This is unusual, but after last winter nothing seems so unusual anymore. There might be a first crumbling of snowflakes, with 1-2 inches that are gone in a day. Twelve inches requires heavy equipment and it might be a non ignorable start into the winter season.

Yesterday, I had brought in the last plants, the last umbrellas, ripped out the summer squash plants from the raised bed before the soil freezes solid. Cut down the catnip to a large bouquet, much appreciated by the cats, and refilled the portable gasoline container for the snowblower. There was no time to rake leaves this fall, the lawn will not like it The wind howls around the house, and the thick snow blows sideways. Since there are still plenty of leaves on the trees, the sleet and frozen rain section of this storm will likely will weigh heavy on them.

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Around noon, I made a second batch of candy corn cookies since they’ve been a success this week. This time I only mixed in the chocolate chips (added a few chocolate ones), and once I had form dough balls, I stuck 3 candy corn in each cookie dough ball, making sure to cover them with dough,. and then baked them for 9 minutes. This time it worked out perfectly. No running and melting of candy corn, and they are all solidly inside the cookie.

By the last batch, the electricity went out. I still baked off the cookies in the warm oven. The power stayed out for 3 hours and I already prepared myself for a night without power. After all, last winter people had been without power for 10 days. Candles everywhere, making a fire in the woodstove, and then…. fortunately, the power came back on.

The storm brought what was promised. 12 inches of heavy, wet snow that not even the snowblower liked. And that on November 2. A little early.