Food, sunshine, friendship–not necessarily in that order!

Perfect blue skies, Monday holiday, sunshine before the rumored storm–a great day for lunch with my good friend Chris! The drawbridge ALMOST made me late, but it was a nice opportunity to look at the activity of Portland Harbor. Just in time, over, out, and into the sunshine of a glowing midwinter’s day!

Our favorite lunch spot: The Dogfish Cafe on Congress Street.

It’s a fine place to watch the sidewalk from a table in a sunny window, and catch up with a dear friend.

I love the mural!
And the border of corks along the bottom of the big plate-glass windows.

And I love the neighborhood! Funky Portland at its best. While I’m at it, let me throw in the link for a great “foodie” resource, the Portland Food Map:

Here’s the classy and historic Inn at St. John, with all flags flying.

Our cheerful and well-informed server, Kelly Moynihan, provided us with coffee, good advice, and boundless good humor along with fine service.
There were so many temptations to choose from!
Chris made the perfect choice:
Grilled Shrimp Panzanella

A warm salad of crispy salami, grape tomatoes, basil, bread and fresh mozzarella. Topped with grilled shrimp and balsamic reduction.

I enjoyed my selection as well!

Blueberry Salmon Salad
Grilled Atlantic Salmon atop pistachios, dried pears, shallots, Fuji apples, and mesclun greens with Maine blueberry vinaigrette:

Check out the menu:

There’s a handsome, friendly bar (and barkeep!) if you are eating alone, or just want to hang out with regulars from the neighborhood.

When you’re all done with lunch, doggy bag in hand (portions are generous!), there are lots of good shopping spots in easy walking distance. Union Station Plaza is home to a primo Goodwill store, and a mecca for Maine musicians, Buckdancer’s Choice Music Company
If you are a Maine musician, or love one, you have probably spent hours browsing in Buckdancer’s.

You can also feast your eyes on some of the elegant and distinctive architecture of the area. Here is a rendering (from a 1920 postcard) of the beautiful Maine Central Railroad offices, which remain and now house many interesting Maine businesses:
Here is the old, glorious Union Station; here depicted in 1911.
Here’s a good article about the railroad history of Portland, Maine, worth a look if you’re going to be in the neighborhood.
The best part of today was, of course, catching up with Chris! Just a few years ago she performed our wedding in the lovely Yarmouth home she shares with her husband, Jack. Jack is off to three weeks in the Philippines for work, one of her daughters is traveling with the Beehive Collective as an activist artist:, and the other is flying to Zambia tomorrow to begin 2 years of service to humanity in the agricultural field. We love vicariously adventuring through the travels of this amazing family.
I hope many of my friends are out enjoying the sparkling sunshine and mild temps. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Portland bistros, haunts, and strolls!
Now: be sure to lay in some provisions for the SNOW!!!!

Love IS bigger than money. It is.


At our house, today has been a day of fiscal awareness. After a long, long, frustratingly long layoff, my scientist husband is on the eve of his return to work–part time, at first–in his highly technical field. We’ve been kissed by a blessed ripple of the sloooowly recovering economy.

Our good friend down the block, who, for two years after her layoff, worked as a transcriptionist in subterranean office (despite her law degree),

just this week returned to a decently paying job in her field–a job with benefits. Our daughter, meanwhile, is still scrapping together babysitting jobs and anything else she can get, waiting for the summer tourists to arrive with a healthy cash injection for the service sector. It’s been a hard winter.

But we’ve learned a lot.
This morning, my daughter and I took her precious, limited funds on a grocery quest–in search of the best bargains in a number of crucial categories. Caitlin has a well-honed talent for comparison shopping, and she has a closet full of stylish, expensive-looking clothes from patiently monitoring the thrift stores and following strict guidelines. If she spends more than $10 on any item of clothing, it’s either sensational or she’s still feeling guilty about it. Most days she turns out looking like a supermodel in something she’s put together for less than $20, earrings to shoes.
She’s smart, and she’s glam:

She’s a fashion sleuth. But that’s another post altogether.
So, anyway, armed with a list of “musts” and a few “wants” we headed out into the bleak February morning to work over
those supermarkets. We had a tight budget, but plenty of time on our hands and coffee firing up the old adrenals.

The rest of this is only relevant for folks who live in the greater Portland, Maine, area. But there are quite a lot of you, and most of you are not reading this blog, so if you are ARE, you get a special bonus. Here’s what we found: First go to Shaw’s. Get ONLY the specials: Be sure you have a Shaw’s card! There is no excuse not to have one, since you can even get one online: and, once you have it, you can print out coupons to save you even MORE money:
Next, if you happen to be in the South Portland area, visit the justly famous Smaha’s Legion Square Market (the place, it just so happens, where poor law students shopped for groceries 25 years ago. But I digress…..)

We discovered that Smaha’s has better prices on many dairy products–cheese, milk, and butter–than both major supermarkets–if you don’t insist on a fancy selection. Smaha’s also has a great butcher shop, very reasonable, and will cut to your specs. And they are not a chain. So shop there.

From Smaha’s, we took the rest of our list–bread, cereal, produce, jam, muffins, and ice cream–to Hannaford. We’re simply big Hannaford fans in our family–my husband said “I love you” to me for the first time when we were selecting yellow onions in the Gorham Hannaford; actually, what he said was “God help me, I think I love you”. But I digress.

Hannaford seems to have the best prices overall, and their stores are just cool. Well-organized, clean, lots of variety. Their flier is also online: and they offer a very handy online shopping list planner thingie that probably will secretly track everything you do on the internet for the rest of your life but in any event that’s here:

Caitlin shared her discovery of the HUGE savings involved in choosing the large quantity of bagged cereal over the smaller boxed cereals; she mixes in a little of her own granola and fruit and saves a ton. Smart girl!

Having fun yet? I HOPE SO!!!! Because getting more good food for your money is good, guilt-free fun and we pretty much have fun together whatever we do. She got to go home, unload those (recyclable) bags and fill her pantry, and I got to come home to my handsome onion-love-man, enjoy a lazy together Sunday with the papers, the pets, and the many sweet, tasty pleasures money cannot buy.


A new love: social bookmarking

I flirted from afar for a long time. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Burned and spurned a few times by the shiny and new, it was a challenge for me to trust. Organizational programs, that is. I would always start with high hopes, but I would soon grow weary of the effort it took to keep the relationship going.

Nevertheless, I finally had to admit I was powerless over the chaos of my bookmarks. I was drowning in a sea of unsorted, seemingly random information.

Tentatively at first, then with a growing desperation, I called upon a power greater than myself. Delicious answered. Then Diigo.
Now I’ve fallen. Hard. I taste. I dig. I stumble.
Friends, behold my bookmarks:
Use them, pass them around, they are too sweet to keep to myself.
Are you like my students–skeptical, unconvinced? Wrestling with the doubt that a geeky, middle-aged gypsy teacher could have found a romance with information worth investigating?
Let me call upon others more informed and eloquent to convince you:
Still having your doubts? Here’s another great presentation:

Do share your bookmarks and great finds with ME!
That’s it for today! I’m stumbling off to make more discoveries!

Civility, where art thou?

OK, I admit it. I arrived at the classroom in an uncommonly peevish humor. Churlish. Acrimonious, even.

For one thing, an unprecedented surge in enrollment has thrown our once sedate, orderly community college car owners into a state of depravity and utter lawlessness. I’m talking about our parking lots.
Arriving shortly before class, I noted a fellow faculty member preparing to back his car out of a spot within reasonable walking distance of my classroom. Laden with two fat satchels full of magazines for my students’ advertising analysis project, this mattered to me more than usual. I assumed the polite but obvious position universally recognized as “waiting for the parking spot to be vacated”.
Just as the occupant of my chosen space backed out, and I prepared to pull in, a huge van zoomed right up and nearly collided with me, racing me to the space. The college student behind the wheel was looking directly at me. Daring me. He blinked. I didn’t. Aggressively revving his ill-maintained engine, he darted off in search of other prey.
I decided to check my cell phone messages before turning off my ringer and entering the classroom, so I sat in the car for just a moment–long enough for two other students to swing into place head-to-head, waiting for a game of chicken when I pulled out. Glaring at me, because I was NOT pulling out. When the nearest started yelling and gesturing, I opened my door, stood up, and said “I’M NOT LEAVING!”. Zoom zoom. More hostile exhaust and spray of gravel.

Entering the building, I found the classroom still occupied by the class that meets prior to mine, so I plopped my enormous bag next to me on a bench and began to sort class materials.

Shortly, one of my students, a perfectly able-bodied teenager, stomped into the building and up to my seat, “I want to sit there!”. Not “excuse me, is there room on this bench?” or “would it be OK if I moved your bag”? I was so stunned I actually gathered up all of my materials, stood up, and gave her my seat.
Class went fairly smoothly for the first half-hour, despite the usual couple of clueless students, who refuse to exert themselves by consulting the syllabus or reading my emails, loudly proclaiming that they had no idea their project ideas were due two weeks ago; another announced, with arms crossed and a “what are you going to do about it” expression, that he had decided not to purchase the (reasonably-priced) textbook and, consequently, had not done any of the readings to date.
On to the portion of the class that GenY students are reputed to ENJOY–stimulating, image-rich, video content! Today’s selection was Jean Kilbourne’s phenomenal “Slim Hopes”, a documentary concerning the effects of advertising images on the health and self-concept of women. Since we are currently studying ad analysis, and the upcoming projects will involve presentation of visual images used in print ads, this was a particularly relevant item of instructional content.
Not long into the film I noted that two students were assiduously plunking away at their laptops, completely ignoring the video. Like most instructors, I have had to develop a clear, uncompromising policy against the use of electronic media during class, because many students have no common sense or ability to self-monitor the use of these devices.
I decided not to interrupt the film. When it concluded, I announced that the two students who were using their laptops during the film needed to remain in the room so I could repeat the film for their viewing sans AIM, and the rest of the class could be dismissed. I calmly reiterated my policy, and the reason for my policy, and noticed that one of the offending students was mocking me in evil ventriloquist fashion WHILE I was explaining this. The other chat addict burst out that I was being completely unfair because she had LISTENED to the entire video!
Just to reiterate: the documentary was an in-depth analysis of VISUAL images.
Both students muttered and argued during the 25 minutes of the video replay for which they were “forced” to remain.
Later today, I learned from my department chair that there is no student civility policy “as such”, and that, furthermore, faculty are not permitted to drop students from their classes.
As a follow-up, I did a bit of reading about the epidemic of rudeness in “GenY”. There were lots and lots of links. I collected a few, and then I found I was getting far too depressed, so I took a nap.