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.