Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Falling

They say a picture says a thousand words.

I say, and I think we can all agree, that it depends on the picture.

I, unfortunately, do not have a picture that would do the tale I have to tell justice. I'm not sure I can even do it with words. But I am going to try.

Some of you may know, that dear sister Beckie is visiting midcoast Maine. Since Sunday she has been staying in a rental house two blocks from where I live. With her are friends, Jenna, Tim, and Kyle. They've been having a grand old time and when I am able, I pop on over for dinner or games.

This morning, I took the day off from work. Jenna, Tim, Kyle, and I decided to take the steep hike up to the top of Mt. Battie.

Going up, I learned that I am in a little better shape since the last time I took this particular hike. This pleased me.

Going down, I was forced to re-think my hiking practices and evaluate my tendency to fall down or into things.

Lets go back for a moment and recount a couple instances. Summer 2008, I was doing frag transects with fellow intern Corey in a marshy area in Rhode Island. Instead of following Corey with his uncanny knack to find all the safe walking spots, I went my own way and BAM! My right leg had sunk to my waist in the muck. Corey laughed and offered no help as I extracted myself. Two more steps and BAM! It happened again. Same leg, different hole. I lost a cell phone that day. Flash forward to the following winter. I went sledding with high school friend Matt and little sister Kirsti. The sledding hill was steep, the snow had been packed, melted, and then frozen in the frigid night. So it was hard as ice. I went down, my sled hit a bump, and I was jettisoned from my seat. I flew a little, landed hard, and continued to log roll down to the bottom of the hill. That was the same night I cracked my head on the icy slope. Next we come to the spring of 2010. We were running a Wilderness First Responder scenario where we had to carry someone a distance across uneven and difficult terrain. We came to a narrow bog bridge. The only way to get the stretcher across was to have one person carrying the front and one carrying the back with no one on the sides. Still, they wanted someone to at least guard the sides as the stretcher was rather wide. No one wanted to get mucky in the marshy water. I couldn't care less about getting mucky (having experienced it plenty in Rhode Island). So, thinking that the water was not deep at all, I took a couple steps to the side of the bog bridge in the muck. those two steps was all I got before I was up to my waist in muddy water. I had done it again.

I'm sure there are many other minor falling incidents. My family might be able to recall them better than I. But I think that THIS one takes the cake.

We had all had our fill of the view at the top of the mountain and were heading back down. The hike UP is strenuous and a challenge. It's sheer and steep at times. But it's nothing, NOTHING compared to going back down. I managed to do so without incident last time. I guess I can't be so lucky twice.

To be honest, as I was stretching my leg out down a steep slope to brace it on a small rock I thought to myself-"this might not be the best choice". But I was already going down and could not stop my momentum. For a split second I thought I had succeeded. Then my stomach dropped out as the momentum of my controlled movement downward towards the rock didn't go as planned. I couldn't stop after my foot landed on the rock and so I crashed to my knees in the steep and sheer slope. My brain said "okay, that wasn't too bad". But the momentum of the fall and the steepness of the slope were not going to let me off that easy. From there, how things happened were pretty much a blur. I somehow managed to get myself horizontal with the slope so that I was log rolling down the rocks. I didn't count how many times. Kyle, who saw the whole thing happen, says it was at least 4.

I don't remember pain or fear, honestly. My life didn't flash before my eyes. Just like in the situation with my car spinning across the highway, I think my thoughts were rather calm. Something along the lines of "Well, I could really get hurt here, but what can I do to stop it?" And when I see that I can't really so much to stop it, I just squeeze my eyes shut and wait for it to stop itself. Unlike the spinning car scenario, I DO remember hearing sound. I could here Kyle calling my name, the scraping sounds of my boots and clothes against the rock, and (towards the end) the sound of my water bottle clattering further down the mountain after it fell out of my grip. The steep rocks I was rolling down finally ceased on a little bit of scrubby earth. Here, I ended up on my stomach and I was able to stop myself from going any further.

I lay there on my stomach, breathing quickly. I heard Jenna or Tim call something down to Kyle. He said he thought I was okay. Then ASKED me if I was okay. Not sure how to answer, I remained silent, but pushed myself up and rolled over so I could sit and take inventory. First I was aware of the pain which I hadn't felt the whole time I was rolling. Nothing was excruciating-so I was sure nothing was broken. My head didn't hurt-So I have escaped a head injury, thank GOODNESS. My knees and legs hurt a lot but didn't seem to be broken. My arms stung. I took several deep breaths and then noticed that I was shaking quite a lot. Leave it to the adrenaline. Once I could breathe normally and assured everyone I was okay, I did a more detailed inventory. There was scrape about and inch and 1/2 long down my left arm covered in dirt, a couple other scrapes around my right elbow. My knees were screaming at me in protest, since they had taken the weight of the first fall. There were a couple mild scrapes on both legs but nothing bad. Thank goodness for PANTS! At this point I remember thinking, "great, the ONE TIME I don't bring my first aid kit along!"

My next thought was "Oh no! I lost my water bottle!" I asked Kyle if he had seen where it had fallen. He reminded me that he was too busy watching me. More than worrying about the pain, I was worried that I had lost a good Nalgene (P.S. I did find it and retrieve it).

This is not where I fell, but this is to give you an idea of the steepness of the slope and the rockiness of the terrain.

This is ALSO not where I fell. I don't actually HAVE a picture of where I fell. Kyle said he thought about getting one, but felt it was insensitive to ask me. I told him I really wish he HAD! I am a huge advocate for documenting the moment. I wish he had gotten VIDEO for it. Anyway, these rocks were right BEFORE the place I fell and were pretty close to the kind of rocks I rolled down.

The hike down this bit of mountain is hard ENOUGH with the steepness and the jarring impact on my knees. Now add to it the weakness that comes after a rush of adrenaline and aching pain in both my knees. It was not my favorite thing ever, let me tell you. But we got to the bottom without any other serious incidents. After I showered, it was apparent that my knees were both swelling. My right one more than the left. None of my scrapes were bad and had stopped bleeding. I found the stairs up to my room to be a challenge as bending my knees hurt. For the rest of the day, Right Knee stayed swollen twice it's normal size and Left Knee about 1/2 less than that. My cuts stung. And I limped everywhere we went (the rest of the greatness of this day will be documented later).

I'm now typing this with a frozen package of green beans and carrots wrapped in a towel over my right knee. The swelling has gone down a bit. The scrapes on my arms still sting. But stairs are a little easier and the pain has gone down.

I am indescribably lucky that I came out of this with nothing but a couple scrapes, bruises, and some knee swelling. And the fact that things already feel better is encouraging.

I admit that now the only thing I am worrying about is not being able to get exercise for the next couple of days. I know I need to take it easy on these knees of mine and not push myself. So I will NOT walk to work to water the plants tomorrow. I will drive. I won't walk to the laundromat on Saturday. I will drive. I might still walk the the village green. But I just hope that my knees feel better soon because until I can start walking places again, I am giving up sweets. Even though Kyle is making cookies tomorrow, Beckie and I made the most AMAZING cake tonight, I have CHOCOLATE in the pantry, ICE CREAM in the freezer, and Kathy made 3 KINDS OF CAKE for a members birthday yesterday! But I will control myself. NO SWEETS until I feel I am up for walking again. I hope it is soon.

Well, friends and family, it's late. I am tired. So I will end. I am thankful to be okay. Beckie is convinced that I'm like a Final Destination film-cheating death. And so eventually death is going to catch up with me and I am going to die in some crazy and elaborate way.

I'd like to think it has a little more to do with a higher power that ISN'T death, but what do I know?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On several verbs

If School House Rock taught me anything it was that Inter Planet Janet was a "galaxy girl", pronouns take the place of a noun, interjections are things like "HEY!" "OUCH!" and "WOW!", and something about adjectives. Unfortunately, the whole verb thing never seemed to stick.

But after years and years of being embarrassed to play add libs ("I TOLD you what a verb is 5 SECONDS ago!") it finally stuck.

Verbs are a person, place, or THING, right?

I kid. I promise. I know verbs are. Grammar has NEVER been my strong point. Maybe that's why I will never be a real writer.

Moving on. I would like to dedicate this post to a number of simple, but well loved verbs. Verbs I have come to cherish over the course of my 24 years of existence.

First, my hat goes off to READING. Thank you, my friend, for presenting me with years and years of fond memories and page after page of magnificent new worlds and emotions to explore. In the past, when people ask me what my genre is, I would fall back on Science Fiction and Fantasy. Most of my youthful reading was predominated by Star Wars novels, the Dune series, and of COURSE, stories of magic. More recently, it's been harder to label myself with a genre. For the most part I would say that I prefer fiction. I do still love stories of the fantastical and slightly unbelievable. But lately, my tastes have begun to change. Many of you who have spoken with me lately know that though I still accept suggestions for Fiction, I have been wandering into the realm of non-fiction. Something I thought I would NEVER do. Who wants to read about real life? You live it, don't you? What's SO interesting about someone else's take on things? I think my change of heart has mostly come about because of this: In my life before now, I was steeped in education based activities that were meant to stimulate the growth of my brain. What better way to escape that than to venture into someone else's fictional world? But now that I have completed my formal education for the time being, I find that my brain craves nourishment. Lets face it. Even books like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia (which have WONDERFUL and MEANINGFUL everlasting themes of love, faith, and good versus evil) are ultimately brain candy. BETTER brain candy than things like cookie cutter murder mysteries and romance novels. So lets call them brain fruit instead. But just like our bodies can't survive on fruit alone, so my mind has found that it needs the brain PROTEIN and CALCIUM that it's been force fed it's whole life and is now lacking.

There. That's my long winded analogy. I still love fiction. I still want fruit. Fruit is GOOD for me. Good for my imagination. But I am taking a break from fruit. So what am I reading now?

-On Writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King
-In Defense of Food: An eater's manifesto by Michael Pollan
-The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey

You know, I got the first two from THE LIBRARY? I can't REMEMBER the last recreational book I got from the Library. Honestly, I have a problem with buying books. I buy books even though I have not read them, assuming they are going to be good. That's why I DO in fact own the first three Twilight books (do I own the last one? Now I can't remember. I must remember to sell those). ALSO I have also had the advantage of having free book exchanges nearby.

But no more. TODAY, I got a library card. And I tell you, it makes me feel more at home here than I have up to this point. It kind of TIES you to a place, you know? I like it. I'd forgotten the feeling. Of browsing the stacks with nothing but leisure on your mind. Not desperately searching for that book you need to finish that paper. Of finding the book you are looking for. The feel of it in your hands as you carry it home. And the excitement and urgency you feel to GET STARTED IMMEDIATELY because you know you only have to book for a limited time. It was WONDERFUL. Remind me to ALWAYS have a library card for the place I am living.

So, THANK YOU, reading. I have rediscovered you and I now remember how much I love you.

Next, I would like to give a shout out to WRITING. My dear, old friend-you have been my companion through COUNTLESS emotional journeys. The ups, the downs, the awkwards. I've had a hard time really writing things here in Maine. I admit that this might have something to do with Instant Netflix. It is my downfall. But again, I go back to that brain candy analogy. I've been STARVING the creative and thoughtful part of my brain. I've been gorging on the sweets of the entertainment world. But now I feel this need to ENRICH myself. To EXPAND myself. To FINISH something. So I picked up the old pages of "The Bear Brook Massacre" and began writing again. I've made some edits. I've felt inspired. I've taken strides. And I've gotten farther in a piece of writing on this than I have on ANYTHING in a long time. It feels good. At the same time, it's all on paper in scribbles and I have gotten WAY behind on transcribing it onto the computer. And the more I put on paper, the further I get and the more it stresses me out, thinking about typing it all. Small steps, I suppose. I really DO feel that I write myself into well being.

Thank you, writing, for re-entering my life and inspiring me again.

Now a verb I passed over many times in the context of a noun. The noun is Music. The verb is listening. Since I have talked a lot about how music has been shaping my experience here, I will be brief on Music. (Sorry, Listening. I LOVE you, but it just makes SO much more sense to use a noun rather than a verb in this case). My ears have been overjoyed in the past week or so. I got two new CD's. One is "An airplane carried me to bed" by Sky Sailing-the PRE recordings of the guy who is Owl City. The second is the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 soundtrack. BOTH are amazing. I have already listened to them all the way through MANY times. One gets me to work and back again. The other feeds my musical soul.

I spent Thursday and Friday listening to ALL the Harry Potter soundtracks. It's funny, but I still don't own books 4 and 5, I own NONE of the films, but I have ALL of the soundtracks now. That says something about me, I guess. Music fills me. It touches the deepest emotions within me. It ENHANCES the read and write verbs as well as the view verb. Notes strung together in perfect strains can bring the most COMPLEX emotions. To appreciate and understand music is a blessing. To be able to CREATE it is nothing short of divine.

Which brings me briefly to my next verb, play. This is in reference to the music noun again. in addition to my guitar, I now have a snazzy strap, a capo, and several half-learned songs under my belt. And this too brings me joy. There is nothing better than finally getting your fingers trained to reach that chord. Or getting that sequence of chords right and in rhythm. It's electrifying!

Next is one I am REALLY ecstatic-COOK! Oh boy, COOK. You have taken my world by STORM. I've still got a LONG way to go, but I am ADDICTED to you!!

I now have two new recipes that I want to try a week. They are all logged on my calender for the rest of my time in Maine. I don't know if I will get to all of them, but so far so good. In fact, let me present to you the two new recipes I tried this week!

First: Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, and Black Bean Enchiladas.

I got the recipe from THIS site. But altered a few things. So here is MY recipe.

Red Pepper Sauce
-1 c. Whatever broth you have at the time (I used onion soup broth because it was what I had and it worked fine.) You can go for low sodium, veggie, or BEEF. Whatever. I don't think it will matter all that much.
-1 TBS of corn starch
-1 generous cup of chopped roasted red peppers (roast them yourself or buy them, whatever)
-3 cloves of garlic, minced. (add as much garlic as you WANT. I LOVE GARLIC)
-1 tsp of chili powder (I omit the cumin. *shudder*)

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and stir on medium heat until thick and bubbling.

-2 c. Black beans (cooked in ONIONS! Only if you like them that way. But they DO need to be cooked and drained)
-4 cloves of garlic minced (you can always add MORE you know. GARLIC!!!!)
-Fresh lime juice (The recipe says from one large lime. I say go crazy. Lime is like garlic. IT'S AMAZING.)
-2 heaping cups of diced cooked sweet potatoes
-1/2 c. of diced roasted red peppers
-1/2 tsp of chili powder (again, I omit the cumin. Feel free to add 1/2 of tsp. of that as well if you can stomach it.)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped PARSLEY (Okay, the recipe calls for *bleeeech* cilantro. Like cumin, my taste buds have a hard time with this spice. No matter HOW hard I try to love it, I can't. It tastes like soap.)
-8 corn tortillas
-1/2 c. of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
-2-4 tbs of oil (veggie or olive or whatever kind you prefer)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Choose a baking dish that would hold 8 rolled enchiladas. Make your Quickie Green Chile Sauce. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the Enchilada Filling, using a mixing bowl, combine the drained black beans with minced garlic and lime juice. Toss to coat the beans and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the cooked sweet potatoes with the chopped red peppers; add the spices. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the Quickie Green Chile Sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.

To assemble the enchiladas, grab a skillet and heat a dash of oil. Lightly cook the corn tortillas to soften them, one at a time, as you stuff each one.

Lay the first hot tortilla in the sauced baking dish; wet it with the sauce. Spoon 1/8 of the sweet potato mixture down the center. Top with 1/8 of the black beans.

Wrap and roll the tortilla to the end of the baking dish. Repeat for the remaining tortillas. Top with the rest of the sauce. Top with a sprinkle of shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the enchiladas are piping hot and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.

Sweet, savory, just a LITTLE spicy. Perfect. In MY opinion much better than it would have been with the green chili's. WOO. Go sweet potatoes!

Second: Zucchini Pizza

From THIS site.

This one is more simple. Basically, you need either a ROUND zucchini or a LARGE regular zucchini. Something that is going to give you nice large round slices. You need pizza sauce (homemade or canned or jarred. I prefer homemade with lots of FRESH herbs.) Shredded cheese of some kind. I PREFER mozzarella, but all I had was Parmesan and the Monterey Jack from the Enchiladas. And then TOPPINGS. Whatever you want. I don't have precise quantities because I winged it with what I had. The recipe I got this from grills the zucchini, adds the topping and puts it back on the grill to cook the toppings and the cheese. *I* only had a toaster oven. So put the toppings on the zucchini and put in the toaster oven under "broil" for 15 minutes. And it turned out GREAT. Pizza? LOVE. Zucchini? LOVE. These are PERFECT little round discs of pizza flavored veggie wonderfulness.

There. Two recipes.

Back to verbs. What DO all these verbs have in common? I will tell you.

All these verbs can be summed up in one SUPER verb. One that has changed my life this year. One that is intoxicating, exciting, time consuming, and a little frightening all at the same time.

That verb is EXPLORE.

I've been exploring myself. Exploring my skills. Exploring new talents. Exploring joys, tastes, interests, LIFE. A new world.

DISCOVER is another good verb. Discovering myself. Discovering Maine. Discovering VERBS.

Verbs: They're what's happening.

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Sweet Potatoes (For Genny)

I have SO many other "important" photos to upload and "interesting" things to blog about. But today, something went down on the old Book of Face.

I announced that I was making sweet potato tater tots.

I did this to make all my friends and followers jealous. As they should be. Sweet potatoes are the BEST potato, in my opinion. Simply because they are so versatile in the sweet AND the savory. It's almost magical.

Regular potatoes just don't have this magic, or "mojo" as I am now going to call it.

I admit that for many years I, like so many others, was not sold on the whole "sweet" potato thing. Potatoes were supposed to be mashed and creamy, or baked and served wit butter, sour cream, and BACON (I LOVE BACON!!!). Nowhere in the WORLD were potatoes supposed to be sweet.

In Jr, High I even tried to venture into the sweet potato world. For an ethnic cooking portion of "Independent Living" I made Kumara Soup. This is a recipe native to New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings had just come out and I was OBSESSED with New Zealand. Can you blame me? I STILL want to live there. They are one of the only countries where Colony Collapse Disorder hasn't had an effect on bee populations. They have the PUREST honey in the world. And don't even get me started on the endless rugged landscape and wonderful indigenous people.

Sorry, I digress. Where was I? Ah! Kumara soup.

Kumara is just what the Maori call Sweet Potatoes. And it was the easiest and least expensive recipe I could find from New Zealand. So I went with it-sweet potatoes aside. Let me remind you all that in Jr. High I was NOT the cooking master I am now (riiiiight). I knew little to nothing. So I shredded the sweet potato, like they asked. But SOMEHOW I missed the puree part. I added all the OTHER ingredients. Onion, garlic (it probably wasn't fresh, being the novice I was), curry powder *shudder*, etc. And guess what I got? Shredded sweet potato curry with the very SLIGHTEST consistency of "soup". I was disappointed. Even IF the stuff had been like soup it STILL would have tasted bad to me. I mean, the potatoes were SWEET! And, little did I know at the time, curry powder *shudder* makes the BEST of recipes inedible. Even then I had no idea how much I really disliked that mix of herbs and spices.

So I TRIED. But even then, I was convinced that Sweet Potatoes were only something that southern people loved and THAT was because heat, humidity, hurricanes and hoodoo made them like crazy things.

It didn't help that Mom and Dad really never made sweet potatoes for us at Thanksgiving. Maybe that's because none of us kids would TOUCH the impostor "potatoes".

It wasn't until the year 2008 that I saw the light. That summer, I traveled to Rhode Island. What a wonderful place. I insist that you go there and fall in love. I was at Mew's Tavern for happy hour. All us interns went every Wednesday for free pizza (and everyone but me for 1/2 off the "amazing" beer). I had managed to keep my unreasonable prejudice against sweet potatoes a secret until this point. But somehow, that night it became common knowledge that Sarah Lambson HATED sweet potatoes. More specifically sweet potato fries. Everyone INSISTED that I get an order THAT INSTANT. They also insisted that I would love them. I refused. They weren't going to convince ME to spend money on sweet potatoes. Even if they WERE disguising themselves as fries. So one of my friends ordered some instead and they then insisted that I just TRY one. I'm not one who usually gives in to peer pressure (There WAS that one time with the meatball sub) but I made an exception this time. They were so SURE of themselves and so far none of them had lead me wrong.

I still remember that first bite. Just a plain, simple sweet potato fry. Crispy and unassuming. Nothing on it to taint it's sweet and wonderful flavor. My tongue rejoiced! I had never tasted such a thing before! How had I not KNOWN?? I took another. And another! Everyone was nodding their heads with "I told you so" looks on their faces. They had me try it with sour cream. EVEN BETTER. The sweet and crispy was offset perfectly by the smooth and sour. It was THE best food discovery I made in Rhode Island (besides New England pizza and Brickley's Ice Cream).

From that point on, I was converted. I had consumed the sweet potato mojo and it had changed me. There was no turning back. Once I got back home to Missouri, I kept an eye out for places that had sweet potato fries on the menu. They were few and far FIRST. Now I feel like it's almost a given at restaurants. And then I branched off. Sweet potato CHIPS? Yes, please. Sweet potato breakfast potatoes? GIMME! And then it became "lets add sweet potato to this, it will make it SOOO good!"

Like sweet potato burritos, sweet potato potato salad, sweet potato mashed potatoes, SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE! There's NOTHING that sweet potatoes can't do. I promise you. I realize now that they aren't impostors. They aren't trying to be something their not. They AREN'T the hipsters of the potato world-being sweet because being savory is SO cliche. They are the JEDI of potatoes.


And so, tonight, I continued on my quest to make new and wonderful things out of sweet potatoes. On Pinterest Emily pinned a photo of sweet potato tater tots.

WHAT?!?! I mean, tater tots are already hot and crispy little bundles of JOY dipped in ketchup. I thought they could do no wrong and that there was nothing to top them in the world of tots. Boy was I wrong. The site that talked about them didn't have a recipe. So I looked one up. And decided that TONIGHT I was going to make them.

So I did.

*Angels singing praises in the background*

Yes, they ARE as good as they look. Better in fact. Here is the recipe (I got it from this site)

3 cups of shredded sweet potato (about 3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes)
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough oil to fry in

Boil Sweet potatoes in a large pot for about 20 minutes then transfer them out of the water and let them cool. Peel potatoes (or not, I don't think it matters. I DIDN'T peel them but the peels didn't go through the grater anyway) and shred using a grater. Fold the shreds in between paper towels and push down to squeeze out excess moisture. Combine shreds with flour, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Using a tablespoon, portion out the mixture and mold it into tots. Fry in hot oil until brown and crispy and DELICIOUS!

With mine, I used inexact measurements. I only had 2/3's of a sweet potato to use. So I think I added too much cheese. "IMPOSSIBLE!" you say. Sadly, it's not impossible in this case. The tots would stick to the bottom of the pan because of the cheese and so would often fall apart as I tried to scrape them off.

Despite that one small hiccup-these little nuggets of cheesy sweet potato goodness took Kathy and I by STORM! She couldn't stop raving about them. MY mouth is watering just thinking about them. My only regret? That I didn't have 100 sweet potatoes to make TONS of them.

And so, my friends, thank you for taking this journey with me down memory lane. I look back on those dark years of sweet potato prejudice and weep for my taste buds. As I weep for all of you who STILL refuse to let sweet potatoes touch you the way they have touched me. OPEN YOUR HEARTS. Come to the light. You will never want to go back.

Next on the sweet potato menu: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Independence Day Weekend 2011

NOTE TO READERS: Once again, there was SO much to put into this post that posting it has left me exhausted. I have not spell checked myself. You have been warned.

It was a busy weekend highlighted by many enjoyable and entertaining events.

There are many pictures.

Most of my hike.

I slept in Saturday. It felt good. But I didn't sleep in TOO late. I had a date with a hill who calls himself a mountain. (Okay, I know I need to get over my reservation of calling the Camden Hills "mountains". According to mountain definitions, they ARE mountains. Just like there are Mountains in the Ozarks. It's just hard...).

Once I got up, I strapped on my boots, loaded my pack, finished my brunch, and headed to the trail head. I am SO lucky! There is a trail head up the mountain that is about a 10 minute walk from my HOUSE!! How GREAT is that?

Let me take this time real quick to tell you all what I have told many already. I ALWAYS feel SO over-prepared when I go hiking. I had my pack with me. In it was the following: 3 water bottles, a cliffs bar, trail mix, a sandwich, a banana, a first aid kit, my rain coat and hat, my journal, bug spray, keys, camera, and extra batteries. I wore a moisture wicking t-shirt, bandana, and hiking boots (to be fair, I ALWAYS wear these boots because they are SO comfortable and I walk to work every day). Most people had themselves, a camera, and maybe a SMALL pack (maybe fanny pack size). One or two had a small backpack sized pack. And there were some who had NOTHING but the clothes on their backs. Some were even wearing flip-flops. Now I know that the flip-flop wearing people who had no water are just really bad hikers and were severely unprepared. I mean it IS a "mountain" (there I go again). But still...

Okay. Time for pictures.

The first picture I took: Yellow asters growing up a hill.

There ARE some tricky parts up this side of the mountain, but you are CONSTANTLY rewarded by view after BEAUTIFUL view of the surrounding area.

It was kind of cloudy for the first part. I kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn't rain.

This is one of those tricky parts I was talking about.

Here's another one.

Really, random person? A skull graffiti? Okay, I admit, I thought it was a little clever or I wouldn't have taken the photo. STILL. ZERO points to that person on their Leave No Trace skills.

View of the middle school and their baseball field. If there weren't trees in the way I would be able to see my house.

My first view of the harbor from the side of the mountain. STILL not at the top.

Here it is again, a little closer. Camden is SO cute!

More of Maine Mountains and Camden (the NOT downtown part).

The cemetery near where I live. I have yet to take a walk there, but I will soon. Or maybe that's something to be left for the pensive and cooler months of Autumn.

Nope. still not at the top. But one of the vistas did provide a nice view of Penaobscot Bay. I want you to know I just spent two minutes trying to decide is it was spelled Penabscot or Penobscot (knowing that it was either an "a" before the "b" or an "o"). I gave up and looked it up and I guess it's BOTH. Crazy Maine names.

The side of the mountain.

Looking up the Mountain (about halfway from the top).

Lowbush BLUEBERRIES! I guarantee (I HATE the word guarantee. I NEVER spell it right) that I will be back up there at the end of the month to HARVEST!

A little rock house that someone made and left behind.

A giant pile of rocks. I didn't add to it.

A city of little stone towers. I feel like these have a name (Trail blazers? Something like that?). I can't think of it.

I added the tiny rock to the top of this one.

The distant mountains and islands of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. One of these days I will GET there.

Once I got to the top, things began to flatten out. Green mountain tops have their own style of rugged beauty.

Random little stone fort.

Oh LOOK. The tower in the SUNLIGHT. You can see things AROUND it!


From the top of the tower.

Closer up, Camden and the harbor from the top of the tower.

Bar harbor and Acadia from the tower.

Last view from the tower I promise.

Tower arch.

I know I have already shown you a billion pictures of the harbor and what not. With this one I want you to look hard. Past the harbor, past the bulk of land south of the harbor (or to the right of the harbor). To that hazy, thin strip of land in the distance. Do you see it? That's Owls Head. I used to live near that strip of land. Sigh...the memories...(Ew, sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit).

A cute little bog on top of the mountain. I bet you didn't think you would hear the words cute and bog put together, did you?

I don't know what these are but they were next to the bog and LOVELY.

It's the very beginning of mushroom season and I am back to taking pictures of all of them.

See how tiny? Why do I love them so much?

Okay that was Saturday. I also did laundry. I walked ALL the way to the nicer, "GREENER" laundromat. And they closed early that day. Great. So I had to walk from THERE (luggin ALL my laundry in my big red pack) to the OTHER laundromat. The one that is a 5 minute walk from my house. UG. Oh well. Clean laundry.

NOW I want all of you to be jealous. Because I made THIS for my Independence Day Eve/Break the Fast dinner.

THIS is a turkey burger. I cooked it in a blend of garlic, rosemary, and lemon pepper. I topped it with smoked Gouda, red onion, and a raspberry balsamic honey mustard that I made myself. It was pretty much the best turkey burger I have ever had in my LIFE. Maybe the best burger EVER. In addition to that, I made a BLT macaroni salad with a tomato basil seasoning and sweet potato fries baked in cinnamon, raw granulated sugar, and nutmeg.

Best dinner I have had since I've been here? Well, that's hard to tell. I've had some pretty amazing dinners. I never TOLD you about what I had at the Old World Potato Company!

Briefly: tomato Parmesan soup (ALWAYS get soup when you can), a side salad with their HOMEMADE sun dried tomato vinaigrette, and the LA VIVA. A peanut butter, banana, honey, and BACON sandwich on whole wheat bread. Was it amazing? Yes. Was it life changing? Yes. Because now I will always crave this sandwich and NEVER make it for myself because It hurts to think of how NOT that good for me it is.

Okay moving on.

I also made this on Sunday. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread. It's only dark chocolate because the only kind of peanut butter I had WAS dark chocolate. And YES, it is a very wonderful banana bread. But NEXT time I will add less nutmeg. Really, that's pretty much the only thing I can taste.

This is where I spent the REST of Independence Day Eve. Sitting on the lawn of the Camden Village Green. I got there early for their traditional Independence Day Eve fireworks. But all there was to see was fog.

But there was still a chance of a free concert and MAYBE fireworks. So I waited for an hour and 1/2, reading Harry Potter and writing more of the Bear Brook Massacre.

The concert started and they announced that the fireworks were officially cancelled for the night. Then the band started playing. They were a fun group but the SECOND they started, the rain started also. I gave the whole thing up as a bad job and just gathered my blanket and book and walked home.


At noon, I went to my branch presidents house to have a cookout with his family and a couple other families he invited to attend. The burgers were good (meat, cheese, onions, on a bun), there were many good fruit, pasta, and green salads. I ate to much. I had the best woopie pie IN MY LIFE (homemade) and it was a grand time.

THEN, I went with Kathy to her cousin's place on a pond/lake (from here on out known as P/L NOT to be confused with R/L).

The second I got there I was hurried onto their motorboat. An Uncle Sam hat was pressed into my hands along with a red, white, and blue lei. And I was part of THIS...

A local boat parade. Something they do every year. People dress up, decorate their boats, and bring sound-makers. They then go slowly around the P/L for the enjoyment of everyone sitting on their docks.

Yes. For your amusement, I asked one of Kathy's relative to take a picture of me in my Uncle Sam hat and patriotic lei. We got a lot of laughs from the observers.

A view of the pond from the dock.

It was a grand afternoon/evening. After we got back from the parade, I went and kayaked around the P/L. I went through a culvert that went under the road and into a peaceful pond with water lilies, and grasses. There was no sound but the swish of my paddle in the water.

I spied a hiding heron, I raced the water beetles, and I glided along with a family of Canada Geese. It was sublime.

Then I got back to the main P/L and there were people tubing with motorboats. NOT was peaceful but still enjoyable. The sun wasn't too bad and there was a gentle breeze. I want to make kayaking my next hobbie (well, when I become gainfully employed, that is).

After that it was a dinner of LOBSTER!! My first time eating one out of it's shell. YUM. SO good! But a little tedious. And as good as it was, I don't know if I appreciate the whole "cracking into it" part of the experience like native Mainers do. I got halfway through before I was too full to go on. It was great to scratch that quintessential Maine experience off my list.

I hope these videos work. Two short ones of the fireworks shot of on the P/L. Technically illegal. Maine is making fireworks legal next year, so I hear.

The longer one is the fireworks a particular family shoots off every year. The shorter one is one of the fireworks a Kathy relative shot off from their dock.

Overall, it was a grand weekend. SO busy that I didn't even have time to think to myself "aw, it's a family holiday and I'm not with my family. (frowney face)". It was MUCH better than last year. To end this post, I give you this: Taken Tuesday morning on my way to work.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day.

What the foot! It's JULY?!?!?!

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