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It has been a busy day for me today, people. In case you were wondering why I haven’t posted or even if you weren’t wondering, I have a news flash……

It's moving day!!!!!

It's moving day!!!!!

I spent the day packing up my blog and moving it to its new berth at my own domain. Yup. This is for real now. And while there is a new address to go with the move – http://anninmaine.com – the blog name, Only in Maine, stays the same. This is really just sort of like moving to a better house across town.

Those of you reading me in an RSS reader will need to update your subscription address (delete old subscription, go to new address at http://anninmaine.com, and re-subscribe), those of you who have bookmarked me will need to re-bookmark from the new address. Either way, if you stick around over here at the old address, you’ll get mighty bored re-reading this same post over and over, because this page won’t be updated after today.

For those of you groaning at the prospect of change, well, that is the sound of progress, isn’t it?

The rest of you will be cheering me on because you know that this can only mean good things for me, and for you as well. The new site is much more flexible and will give me a lot more control over the appearance and function of the contents. 

You will have to be patient for a bit while I clean up all the little tidbits and straggling items, as WordPress doesn’t necessarily make it easy to make a move like this, and I’m not that techno-savvy. Really. Not. It’s pretty much a left-to-your-own-devices proposition. You have to remember to pack everything yourself, and then double-check all the closets and cupboards as well as under the fixtures to make sure you’ve left nothing behind.

So all of this may take me a while, you know, like one last trip back to the old apartment to make sure you got everything out before you turn in the keys.

There will be a few nice surprises in store at the new place (no, I’m not going to tell you now, then they wouldn’t be surprises, silly, now would they?), but all in all it should look pretty much the same once all the furniture is placed and the boxes unpacked, but after today (the equivalent of that first day of flurried unpacking activity looking for the oh so crucial missing corkscrew) you will notice a few updates from time to time, both in appearance and function. Slowly. And all in good time.

I can tell you that right off the bat you will be able to edit your own comments after you first post them, and I was also able to add a widget that will enable you to share my posts with your friends (always thinking of you, my dear loyal readers). There will also be a “contact me” button so you can email me right from the blog if you feel so inclined. Or not.

Unfortunately, the one thing I can’t take with me, because my new landlord won’t allow it (and no it’s not a waterbed nor is it Rocky, who comes with me everywhere), is the “stats” feature that was in the upper left hand corner, keeping count of how many times I’ve been read. So you won’t be able to count with me anymore, and we’ll have to leave that here at the old WordPress site at 2000 (that’s 2000 since January 17th. Bad or good? Don’t know). But, you’d better believe that I’m still counting behind the scenes so don’t even think about losing the new address, GOT IT?

See you on the other side!

Big fat “oops” last night. I made what is possibly my best chicken dish ever (other than my roasted bird, which is a recipe for another day) and did not photograph the process. I guess I should be thankful that I took notes, so I can still share it with you. This is easy enough to make without illustration, I promise.

This is very quick, inexpensive, and easy to make, and it’s one of those one pot dinners, so easy cleanup too. I was trying to decide what to make for dinner at the last minute (welcome to my world), and this recipe came out of an effort to use what I had in the house, the object being to make something a bit more interesting than the usual grilled breast. The resulting dish is a whole meal in itself.

Oh, and Ms. Thirty-Minute Rachel Ray? BITE ME! Even serving this with a salad will have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes without an army of assistants pre-washing everything or buying expensive pre-cleaned and -cut broccoli florets. And the end result is very impressive looking. But you can’t know that. Because I didn’t take any pictures. 

Chicken 2345

Cast of Characters:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
For the marinade:
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed through a press
  • A few tablespoons of olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • The leaves off of 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 dash peperoncino (dry hot pepper flakes)
  • Fresh ground black pepper (a few grinds)
  • 1 tablespoon “Nantucket Off-Shore” Mt. Olympus Rub*
Then:
  • 1/2 can of quartered artichoke hearts, well rinsed, sliced lengthwise to become 8ths
  • 4 tomatoes out of a can of S. Marzano tomatoes
  • 2  handfuls of broccoli spears (heads and stems, 2-3 inches total length)
  • 3 cups cooked barley (I use Quaker Quick Barley, cooks in 10 min)

*Nantucket Off-Shore Rub: I get this at my local Hannaford’s supermarket, it is just a blend of herbs, mostly rosemary and lavender, with dried (but not powdered, never powdered, OK?) garlic. It has a decidedly Mediterranean smell to it. It contains no salt. Use any salt-free herby blend or just add your own rosemary and lavender if you can and amp up the garlic by a few cloves. DO NOT ADD OREGANO or any rub with the words “Italian” in it. It will totally spoil the effect here, trust me.

Method:

Rinse the breasts, remove anything you don’t like, including any fat, and give each breast a few pokes with a fork on each side so that the marinade penetrates. If not using barley made previously (as I did last night), start boiling the water for the quick barley and prepare per box instructions.

Meanwhile, whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl large enough to accommodate the chicken and the artichokes. Add the chicken, turning to coat with the marinade and let sit (not in the fridge) for about 10 minutes turning occasionally. Then add the artichokes to the bowl, mix them in and let sit another 5-10 minutes or so. 

In a deep skillet, (hot hot), add the breasts to the pan, leaving the artichokes behind in the bowl with the marinade, and sear the meat on both sides on high heat. When just nicely browned on both sides, turn the heat down to medium, toss in the rest of the marinade with the artichokes and cover the pot. Let that cook a few minutes, then add the canned tomato draping one over each piece of meat. Cover again and let the chicken cook through.

Just before the chicken is done**, toss the broccoli in on top of the pan contents, cover, let cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender, and then serve the chicken over the cooked barley (if the barley was made in advance, you will want to reheat it first) pouring the pan juices and whatever solids over the top of the whole thing.

**I’ve warned you before, my recipes are not for beginners. I have no idea how long the chicken takes (10 – 15 min?), I just know when it’s done.

This dish turned out so well, that even though I was full to bursting, I had to get out some bread to sop up every bit of juice from my plate. And then, as I was cleaning up afterwards, I couldn’t stop myself form picking at the leftovers. I’ll definitely make this again.  Meanwhile, I’m having the leftovers tonight, and because I really really really want you to see it, even if it is a day old and reheated, here it is:

Day Two: Broccoli didn't quite make it but was still tasty

Day Two: Broccoli didn't quite make it but was still tasty

Yeah, the broccoli (the grey stuff on the right) doesn’t look quite as appetizing as it did last night, and its day-two texture did leave something to be desired. But it tasted great. Everything was still delicious, reheated in the oven in its juices and served over barley again. Yum.

Meal and budget suggestions:

You can add a salad and a nice crusty whole grain bread to round out the meal, but between the broccoli and the barley (which is really filling) you really shouldn’t need to. You could stretch the budget a little by using thighs instead of breasts. My budget busting tip for those of you like me who don’t like dark meat: I get my breasts when they go on sale about 6 times a year at my local supermarket, I buy 20-25 lbs at a time, and then freeze them. I never pay more than $1.90/lb. Approximate cost of this meal for 4? About $2.29 per person (excluding marinade ingredients, which for me are pantry staples). I dare you to beat that!

As with any of my recipes, if you need clarification (writing recipes is not as easy as you’d think), have any questions, or even if you need help with substitutions, please leave a comment asking your question and I’ll get back to you with an answer. If any of you make the dish, please let me know how it turned out, if you think it can be improved, or what modifications you made. I live for this stuff!

I will give credit where credit is due (most of the time), the photo and inspiration for today’s post came from one of my oldest and dearest friends. We share a similar sense of humor.

The following is from an elementary school yearbook, a sort of coffee table style compendium with photos of each child opposite the “biographical information” page (can you spell “cute kids = fundraising?”).  This school is not, I might add, in Maine. Each child wrote their own answers to the questions posed. The author of this precious piece is only ten years old. The name has been altered to protect the precocious innocent that wrote this from the undoubted flood of job offers that would otherwise be sure to follow.

From the mouths of babes:

Wanted: Part-Time Burger Flipper at McDonalds

Wanted: Part-Time Burger Flipper at McDonald's

This is one of those rare instances that I’m not going to spoil the image by adding a lot of useless post-photo comments. I think the photo speaks for itself, and the future of America.

Burgers anyone?

In my humble opinion, the difference in the politics of 2001 and the politics of 2009 is this: 

When the democrats lost the White House to George W. Bush they knew he would fail but hoped he would succeed.

Now that democrats are in the White House, the most outspoken members of today’s republican party hope that Obama will fail even though they are afraid he will succeed.

Doesn’t anyone see that hoping for the President’s failure is hoping that America and all of her citizens find no economic recovery? That millions of Americans, republicans and democrats alike, will suffer lack of employment, health care, and city and state services, like fire and police protection, just to name a few? That cities and states will fail, causing greater unemployment and resulting unrest? Are they looking for armageddon? What kind of people wish for this? This is not patriotism.

How vulnerable to, say, terrorism, is a country that can’t feed its people and has no one left to defend it?

One child was suspended from school 8 years ago for wearing a “No Bush” tee shirt to school. What fate should Rush Limbaugh and Bobby Jindal suffer?

After 9/11 we were all called upon to get behind the President on his “war on terrorism.” Is it not time to get behind this President in his attack on the economic failure left behind by the last administration no matter what your politics?

How is it possible to blame the current administration for being unable to fix, in 6 short weeks, an unsolvable problem that took 28 years to create?

A few years ago, my mother decided it was time for her to move from her home of 30 years to a less independent living situation. She picked the spot, and we moved her in. It was February, and my first experience with a Maine winter. It was the winter before I moved to Maine so I while I was here helping her get settled in I was actually staying with her in her new “independent living” apartment, and had rented a micro-sub-mini-compact-no-frills-crap-box cheap cheap cheap rental car hardly more than a bicycle, in order to get around during my stay.

Back in those days I was still a smoker. And very happy in my smoking. Loved each and every cigarette individually and specially.

As we unloaded my mother’s belongings and furniture, I find out that there is no smoking anywhere on the grounds of this new “senior paradise.” The nearest “legal lightup” would be over a mile away.

Well, the long evenings there got longer, and as an insomniac, longer still. It was around 10º outside, and nowhere to smoke. I got to getting into the rental not-a-mobile and driving around the block continuously while smoking. 

This got old, and although gas was not at the price levels it is now, and this car probably got ridiculously good mileage, it is very un-kind to the environment to pollute it with exhaust just to then pollute the air with cigarette smoke. This just seemed wrong, and no matter how cheap the gas, that too was adding up. Also, this is a small town, and I was pretty sure the police were already on their way to check out a mysterious smoke belching continuously circling car, after all, this was the middle of the night. I was the only car on the road.

I then figured, really, it is after midnight, everyone here is over a certain age and are all asleep by now, what would it hurt if I sat in the car in the parking lot with the windows closed (ugh) and had a smoke? It’s dark out, no one will see. Even if they see the cigarette end glowing in the dark, (unlikely from above while I’m in the car below) they won’t be able to see my face, and won’t be able to identify the perpetrator in a line-up during the – no doubt –  ensuing congressional investigation, were I caught.

All well and good except for one little flaw in the plan.

The car.

This vehicle barely had wheels and an engine, and also by the way, had no ashtray, and yet it apparently had a computer on board that decides how certain features behave. 

What am I talking about? It turns out that there is no way to sit inside the vehicle with the engine off without the interior light being on. 

I tried every possible sequence combination of the following activities: turning the engine on, turning it off, turning the lights on, turning them off, latching and unlatching my seatbelt, sitting in the passenger seat, even popping the hood. The only way to get the interior light to go off was to start the engine, release the handbrake and put the car in gear, or conversely, shut the whole thing down, get out, lock the door and walk away. No other options, period. I really hate it when machines think they know better than I what is good for me.

Can any of you explain to me a car that costs $12.95 to BUY, that has no electric anything (manual windows, door locks, seats, mirrors, practically even manual windshield wipers), somehow has an onboard computer with seat sensors that know when you are about to light up? 

I’ve petitioned congress to drop the investigation and should be hearing back sometime next week. 

 

I was out of coffee pots.

I had broken my 3 cup Bialetti espresso stovetop pot (called a Moka), which I use daily for my morning coffee. I was forced to switch to my rarely used drip pot, one that I keep in case I have drip-drinking guests.

The drip pot hates me. See, I happen to know that big boulders of grind do not espresso-strong coffee make. Every time I grind beans, I try to find that fine line between too fine and just right for a strong-brewed drip. About 5 times out of ten I go over the line, ending up with too fine of a grind, clogging up the filter, and resulting in a countertop, toaster oven, cupboard front and floor full of weak coffee and trails of wet grinds. This last happened yesterday. I had turned on the pot and left the room. When I came back…..well I just described what happens right?

Fed up, I remembered that I had an old French press somewhere, managed to find it, and made a pot. Tried to drink it. It pretty much spit itself out it was so bad.

You know, I know we all know that the French, while culinary geniuses in general….well, don’t make very good coffee. What I don’t understand then, is why there is such a market for their coffee pots.

No angry cards and letters please, I gave you the “culinary geniuses,” you can’t have everything. If any of you actually like a cup of French press coffee, I won’t stop you from drinking it. But I do reserve the right to turn up my Italy-reared coffee-snob nose at you while you do it.

Obviously, I need to go out and buy another Moka pot, which I was prevented from doing yesterday by Mother nature, who in Maine, is currently having an affair with Mr. Snow (who’s first name is “Wholelotta”), and they are both in cahoots with the city plowman to make sure the mouth of my driveway is absolutely not useable as an exit. I had to wait until this morning after my plowman cleared it out so I could run out before breakfast in search of a pot. I stopped at the local kitchen store to find, as a sad reminder of the current economic conditions in this country, that it is closed for good. The Maine Roasters coffee shop I tried was out of stock. And it was through this series of seemingly non-events, that I drove to the next town up the coast for a Moka pot and a serendipitous Only-in-Maine occurrence.

After yesterday’s severe blizzard, we were left with a huge pile of snow and the parking lot for this 2nd Maine Roasters was pretty deep in it although it was plain to see that efforts to plow it out had been made. As I parked, the woman in the car next to mine was pulling out and her wheels started spinning uselessly in the snow. We made commiserating shrugs at each other as she rocked back and forth trying to dislodge and reverse out. I went around her to see if there were any large hard snow clumps blocking her tires, as it seemed (and there were), and she rolled down her window laughing as I kicked at the clumps that she was in her mother’s old car and “gee, I guess she doesn’t have snow tires on it.” I suggested a lower gear and laying off the gas, which she did and she started to move as her wheels finally gripped. Just a quick moment, 2 strangers, barely connecting, over living in the snow. As I walked towards my new coffee pot, she yelled out “wait, I have something for you.” Turns out she was at the coffee shop pushing her wares, and had a last sample.

Eat Me!

Eat Me!

She gave me what looked like an ordinary sesame bagel, individually wrapped. The last in a large sample box she had in the car. Sesame happens to be my favorite bagel and I hadn’t as yet eaten breakfast, having, if you recall, left the house in search of a coffee pot before eating. 

“Take it” she said. They are wholesalers only, so she wasn’t selling any, it was just a gift. A small kindness – 2 strangers. This is the essence of Maine. I had to ask her for a card. This old mailer was all she had (see left) to give me. 

The bagel, I was informed, is made of spelt, is all organic, healthy, natural, and made locally (click on the image on the left for more info – interesting facts on spelt and the bakery too) in an old mill building powered by the Royal River in Yarmouth. Right up my alley. Made locally, I mean. I am a big supporter of local business and am always looking for new ways to make sure that any money I spend stays right here in Maine. Plus, a water-mill powered bakery? How cool is that?

So, I went in to the shop with a big smile on my face, bought my coffee pot, went home, and made breakfast (and coffee – ahhhh!). 

Can you spelt "Breakfast?"Since I had this beautiful fresh bagel, I couldn’t not eat it, right? I’d never eaten anthing made from spelt that I know of and decided to try it. Karma seemed to be flowing in that direction. I cooked up a few egg whites (my favorite, for those of you groaning “ew” – it isn’t about health or diet, I just like them that way), toasted the bagel, spread a little whipped cream cheese on it, and made an open face sandwich. 

IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!! The taste is hard to describe, like regular wheat bread but with a nutty undertone. Crunchy, light (not overly dense) yet quite filling, great texture, like a good bakery whole grain, but didn’t scratch the roof of my mouth the way whole grain breads do when toasted. 

All in all a great breakfast, eaten with a smile due to a stranger and a shared snow moment. And, what do you know, I just discovered that I like spelt. Or, that I like Spelt Right baked goods. For those readers in Maine, look for Spelt Right products at a store near you (too Madison Avenue? Comment and let me know. But Spelt Right has no idea that I’m writing them up here, ’cause that’s the way I roll – no pun intended).

We are all a bit sick of snow I think. The entire country appears to be suffering a particularly brutal winter. I know I’m just about over it myself. As it is March, Maine has a way to go until she sees spring weather, but in the spirit of the Mainers’ usual coping mechanism, I will just act as if we are already there. 

No, I’m not going to go outside in a tee shirt lugging a baseball mitt and bat looking for a pickup game, I haven’t been here long enough to go that far. But I will post this picture, taken last spring not too far from my house.

It's SPRING!!!! (not really).

It's SPRING!!!! (not really)

Doesn’t looking at that make you feel better already? More alive, more full of hope? Less likely to reach for a packet of razor blades? Like spring really is just around the corner? You can thank me later. In the comments section. Under this post. But for now, just enjoy the view.

I’d much rather look at that photo than the current blizzard raging right now just outside my window, so-called not by me this time, but by the National Weather Service.

So today when I light the fire and cozy up in front of the fireplace under no less than four layers of winter clothing, I will be imagining its heat as the sun’s warm rays while I stare very hard at this picture, trying to blot out everything else.

Hey, its cheaper than a trip to the Caribbean, and I don’t have to worry about boarding the dog. Win-win, right?

You have to forgive my prolonged absence (just 4 days!) from the blogosphere recently, I haven’t been feeling so well and was not making much sense in writing (or in any other medium either). As a favor to you, dear loyal readers, I decided not to subject you to my crazier than usual rantings – which is a nice way of saying, GET OFF MY BACK ALREADY! But, as long as I’m here……….

When I first moved to Maine, I was regaled with all sorts of useless advice from a whole cross-section of people “from away,” as if they had anything worthwhile to contribute on coping with life in this remote northern corner of these United States.

The one piece of useful advice I did get was from an older brother who lives in upstate New York. He told me that I absolutely without fail had to buy myself a Subaru Forester if I were going to survive Maine roads in the winter. Not that he’s an expert on Maine, far from it, but he does live and drive in the snow in winter and he happens to have lots of experience with just about every car there is.

In his opinion the Forester, which is All Wheel Drive (as are all Subarus), is the best possible snow car, better than any vehicle for any amount of money, domestic or imported (not that “any amount of money” was in my budget, but you get the idea).

I did some checking upon arrival in Maine, having donated my barely functioning California vehicle into the open arms of Father Joe’s Villages,* and found I could not get a four wheel drive hybrid – so with “green running” off the table, safety and survival became key. Off to the Subaru dealer I went.

I found and bought a barely used (300 mi) silver Subaru Forester, LL Bean model – what else? VW has Karmann, Lincoln has Bill Blass, Subaru has Bean. Price couldn’t be beat, all was well, and I bought the car.

First trip to a rather large Hannaford’s supermarket with the new car, I go inside with my list, do my shopping for the week, come out with a cart full of groceries, and…….Uh oh!

You see, it appears that my dear brother is not the only one who knows that the Forester is the best snow car.

All I can say is thank goodness for remote door locking/unlocking with attendant beeps and light flashes or I’d still be wandering around that parking lot looking for my car, and my groceries and I would all be frozen solid by now!

Who knew that Maine had a state car?

______________________________________________________________________________

*Father Joe’s Villages (St. Vincent de Paul) will take your unwanted vehicle as a donation. Go to http://www.fatherjoesvillages.org/donations.html for more information

Remember The 2 Bushes?

No, not those 2 Bushes. These Bushes:

The Bushes in Fall

The Bushes in Fall

The 2 bushes that stand outside my living room window from my “A fungus among us…..” post. Well, here they are today:

The Bushes - Not much of an approval rating.

The Bushes - Not much of an approval rating.

Uh-huh. We had a doosey of a storm last night, dropping up to 2 feet of snow in parts of Maine (as you loyal readers know, that’s 2 – 3 inches in Mainer-speak).

Here’s the thing. Snow isn’t just snow. You see, there’s all kinds of snow. There is light, fluffy, dry snow – the kind you can’t even make snowballs out of. Then there is heavy, wet, sticky snow. Which is what we got last night. Snow this heavy turns big fluffy pine tress into scrawny telephone pole looking things by virtue of the sheer weight of the snow on the branches. Snow laden birch trees bend over in big arches, their tips almost touching the ground. And bushes, my precious bushes, get flattened like pancakes. Not to worry, as soon as this melts, they’ll pop up again and do something else photo-worthy.

Now along with this blizzard – so named in Onlyinmaineland because all of this snow fell in one overnight session and did so with 20-30 mph winds – we got another phenomenon. Let me see if I can explain. When it snows this kind of sticky snow and the wind is blowing at the same time, the snow sticks to everything, including vertical surfaces, like tree trunks.

It snowed sideways.....AGAIN

It snowed sideways.....AGAIN

Once it stopped snowing, the wind started in earnest, and the most horrible noises ensued. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on and it sounded like the house was being battered by a Mack truck.

I couldn’t not go investigate, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. So I forced myself out of my toasty warm bed, put on my snow gear and knee boots and waded out into the deep snow and howling wind to see what was going on.

With all that wind, dang if the tall birch tree next to the house that was bent over in an upside down “U” shape under the weight of snow wasn’t bitch-slapping my house!

Giant gobs of snow were flying off of the trees and slamming up against the windows. The dog was going nuts and I spent the entire night feeling like I was being attacked by Visigoths hurling cannonballs…..

Never a dull moment.

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