Thursday, October 30, 2008
Amie and I awoke this morning to the signs of the coming winter. The temperature had dropped about 20 degrees cooler than in recent mornings. The magical glow of the leaves are darkening and dulling. Their stems are weakening and are giving way to the colder, swirling winds. The leaves have begun to fall en masse. Amie and I had packed our mini-van; it was time to visit our friends Josh & Rebecca in Brunswick, the Salah family in Ipswich, and Christiana in Coventry.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Without any doubt, I am the undisputed treasure-hunting champion in our family. My acquisitions are odd in nature and cannot be found in your corner Rite-Aid store. Though I did not find initial success with the Chocolate Skittles, I was able to unearth 2 fine discoveries in the Marden's Surplus & Salvage candy aisle -- "Ice" Hot Tamales and "Extra Long" Twizzlers.
The "Ice" Hot Tamales were actually not hot in the cinnamon, traditional Hot Tamale sort of way, but rather, in a chewy mint flavor. Similar to the Chocolate Skittles, I was initially surprised by the chewy mint flavor, but unlike the Chocolate Skittles, I quickly came to enjoy the burst of mint flavor in my mouth. I could certainly sneak this 9.5 oz box into the movie theater and enjoy every single last tamale before the end of the movie.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I ended up spending $121.39 after tax and have requested a check for $115.56. Rebates do not reimburse for the tax paid. So what did I buy? Advil, cough syrup, chapstick, cough drops, etc. I pretty much filled our "medicine cabinet bin" in the mini van. Unfortunately, I'm sure we'll be needing some of these freebies during our trip.
Some background on Rite Aid's rebate program; each week Rite Aid releases a circular with sale and rebate deals. Their program is called Single Check Rebates. I really like this program because it is easy. You buy the stuff, come home from the store, enter information from your receipt at Rite Aid's website (store number, register number, transaction number and transaction date--they show you on the web site where this info is located on the receipt), and after you've finished shopping for rebates each month you hit a button and request your check. About three weeks later a check arrives in the mail. EASY!
New deals pop up all the time. The deals below are from this week's circular--good until Saturday at midnight! Happy saving.
If you are looking for hints on shopping at Rite Aid check out the website: www.iheartriteaid.com
Monday, October 27, 2008
Amie and her mother had planned a nature walk in Mt. Katahdin for the day. As they had scheduled to depart at 5:00 am, I cited their need to have some exclusive quality time together so I "volunteered" to remain comfortably sleeping in bed. After awakening at my leisure and having breakfast at Raymond's Diner, I had planned a little excursion to Marden's Surplus & Salvage! How could you not love a store that claims that "they are willing to buy anything that they don't have to feed"? "I should have bought it, when I saw it at Marden's" is their catchy little jingle. According to their website, "The real beauty of our company is from week to week even our buyers don't know exactly what is coming in or how fast it will sell." Over the years, I have found such great deals as Columbia Hiking Pants for $10, goose down feather pillows for $5 each, and a big blue lobster pot for $6. Marden's is definitely a "rumbling, stumbling" sort of place as you never know what you're going to come upon. I suppose that is the thrill of Marden's. If you always knew you were going to come away with something, then the shopping would probably lose some of it's lustre. However, every now and then, you love finding that great bargain.
I was immediately drawn to the Chocolate Mix Skittles in the candy aisle. I had not even known that Mars made a chocolate variety of Skittles. I have fond childhood memories of those fruity and sour traditional skittles. My initial reaction was hesitation but at $0.69 for a big 4 oz box, I believed that I was getting a bargain. I should follow my gut reaction more often. My gosh, those Chocolate Skittles just made me gag and want to throw-up those bite size flavors of brownie batter, chocolate pudding, chocolate caramel, s'mores, and vanilla! I could not believe how awful they tasted. My next thought was to just throw them all away. However, I wanted to be open-minded and fair. I considered that my expectations were possibly biased. I had an expectation for chocolate and a very different expectation for Skittles. The chocolate flavor combined with the chewy texture just seemed unnaturally odd at first tasting. So I endeavored to try once again without any preconceived notion of a Chocolate Skittle. I had willed mind and taste buds to savor those blend of flavors...
I could not savor them for more than a millisecond as I can honestly convey that their flavors did not improve a single iota. Though I gagged and convulsed a bit, I managed to swallow what I know to be my very last bite of Chocolate Skittles ever.
I had to learn how these Chocolate Skittles ever came to market. I'm sure that every new candy for Mars Snackfoods undergoes extensive initial marketing tests so I wanted to see what my Google search would turn up. There is actually quite a detailed review at www.candyaddict.com. Not surprisingly, there are quite varying opinions. There are quite a few positive comments, but the following are a few of my favorites,
"I hate these things. I am the kind of guy who buys a bag a candy and does not stop until I am done with all of it. Not the case with these absolutely aweful things. They are still in my office drawer and I do not plan on eating more of these any time soon. The person who came up with this idea should be fired for damaging the reputation of skittles." - Wil
"I'm not gonna lie but this product does not taste good at all. I think that the producers are going to lose a lot of money because nobody is gonna buy this product once they try it. I am no expert here but Im just throwing it out there: “this is the worst product they have ever made”. Stick with the regular or tropical because they are great tasting and dont waste your money on the chocolate ones, you are just going to regret that you bought these." - Andre
I'm heading down the next aisle and now spy Ice Hot Tamales and foot-long Twizzlers...
Saturday, October 25, 2008
On our last full day in Maine, Amie's father arrived in his pick-up truck for a drive to the Crossroads Diner in Mattawamkeag (pop. 825). In most restaurants in most towns, there is that firm cut-off between breakfast and lunch. We've all at one time or another wanted to order that McDonald's or Burger King breakfast sandwich only to arrive a minute or two too late. You were out-of-luck and having lunch. We arrived to the diner at around 11:30 about half-an-hour after they had shut the grill down for breakfast. After hearing of my love for breakfast food, the cook/owner kindly re-opened the grill for my order of blueberry pancakes, home fries, and sausage. As I have gotten older, I am ever more grateful for these kind gestures. I sat back into the booth's cushions, drank my coffee, and immersed into the rhythm of the moment. Enjoying the local chatter of the restaurant -- the weather of the next few days, the accident on the Lee Road, the recent fire in Springfield, and the banter of conversation between Amie and her father. One of Amie's fondest childhood memories are the morning truck rides with her father to the local diner for breakfast and time amongst all those adults before heading to school. It was moment to neither rush or slow down. I was enjoying my warm, slightly sweet coffee and having one of the best breakfasts ever -- maybe made even more delicious by the goodness of the cook/owner.
We next visited Lee Academy where Amie graduated as Valedictorian of her class. This is a fact that Amie would never reveal because of her modesty, but it is a fact that conveys her perseverance, work ethic, and intelligence. Lee Academy is private school gem in central Maine. Amie received numerous warm hugs from teachers, coaches, and administrators as we toured the campus. Little did I know back in 1995 when I visited Lee Academy's campus for the first time as an Admissions Officer for Colby College that the spritely 17 year-old in blue jean overalls would become my wife 12 years later. Our paths would not cross again until much, much later. As Amie was arriving to Colby, I was leaving to pursue my MBA at Carnegie Mellon. I would not hear or see Amie until the autumn of 2005 in New York City. My travels had already taken me thousands of miles -- to Europe & Asia, through graduate school, and into my 30's -- only for my path to lead back to Amie.
When Hung and I complete this year's travel, we hope to start our family. This house needs a new kid!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
During a recent morning, the citizenry of Lee, Maine awoke to the Bangor Daily News headline that one of their resident eccentrics, the "Dog Man", was feared to have perished from a fire at his cabin the previous night. Since arriving to the local area approximately 15 years ago, the "Dog Man" had become somewhat of a local legend. He was aptly named because he always owned and oftentimes had numerous dogs in tow. According to neighbors, he owned as many as 8 dogs, but a few had recently died. How he kept them fed is certainly a mystery as he never had been known to have had any consistent work since his arrival to Penobscot County. However, he certainly managed to keep his dogs fit as he was known to have long, winding walks with several at time as he hitchhiked from Springfield to Lee. The nature of a small town in Maine or any friendly small town in America is that everyone knows most everyone. The folks at the local diner, walking about town, or "hitchhiking" along the county road are familar faces. Hitchhikers on these stretches between the small Maine towns are not the mysterious, menacing stranger who will assuredly do you harm if you were to foolishly offer a ride as portrayed in the cinema, but rather a recognized fellow inhabitant of one of the small towns that dot along your state's highways. It is not entirely unusual for local drivers to offer rides to individuals along the road. However, Dog Man would actually hitchhike the Lee Road with up to 3 or 4 dogs! If I was a betting man, I'd have to give greater odds for each incremental dog that he brought with him. The correlation undoubtedly has got to be negative -- the greater the number of dogs, the lower the probability of receiving a ride. In my humble opinion, hitchhiking for a single available space from a well-intentioned driver is already a lot to ask, but to have someone pull over to the roadside to offer you a seat AND your dogs is a bit much for any driver to fathom. I'm guessing the offered rides over the years have been limited.
Each early morning before the workday begins, the locals gather at Raymonds, the center-of-town diner, to have their wake-up coffee and daily news. This particular day was an understandably mournful occasion upon hearing of the Dog Man's demise. This sudden and suprising revelation compelled those men gathered at Raymonds to reminisce of their shared and unique individual experiences with Dog Man.
"Dog Man's" real name is Grafton Burke. He was so well known as the "Dog Man" that many in the community were hard-pressed to even recall his real name. In fact, the Bangor Daily News initial article of the fire at Grafton's cabin in Springfield only refers to the "Dog Guy". Bill Van Houten, a neighbor who lived a half-mile down the road and who was the first to discover the fire, affectionately refers to him as "Dog Guy". Though the Bangor Daily News reports that "his name is being withheld", I am of the mindset entirely that neither Mr. Van Houten nor the folks at the newspaper knew Dog Man's real name! Most of us would express our concern for a fellow neighbor by using their name and not their nickname. "I hope John or Tom or David survived the fire" -- not -- "I hope 'Big Guy', 'Shaggy', or 'Dog Guy' survived the fire." Neither his neighbors nor the Bangor Daily News knew of any of other name for him at the initial reporting time.
Mr Grafton Burke had become a part of Lee's community. His presence was fabric as to what defines a community like Lee -- not only for his oddities and quirky behavior with his wide range of accompanying dogs -- but also his presence was a direct reflection of the Lee community. The people of Lee accepted Grafton for who he was. People tried to help him along in their own way -- when they were able. For the most part, the residents of Lee left him alone. No one tried to change Dog Man's ways or impose a morality on him. They kindly let him be.
The mood had become somber in Raymond's as the hour struck to remind the Lee men of the day's responsibilities. As they headed toward the exit and approached their waiting trucks, they were stunned as if hit by a bolt of lightning. They just could not believe their eyes. Dog Man was outside Raymond's in the flesh having an animated conversation at the the public telephone! All the men rushed toward Grafton to inquire as to his health. Not any worse off than usual, he was just upset that he had read about his demise in the newspaper! No one had confirmed his new, permanent condition with him and that was particularly troubling! (I actually follow and appreciate his logic). Tragically, none of Grafton's 6 current dogs survived the fire. There was not going to be any hero's celebration or parade with the awarding of the town's key, but everyone was genuinely warmed to see Grafton still alive and with us. I'm hoping that Mr. Burke got offered plenty of rides that day; and that he and all his dogs -- past and future -- get to where they are going.
I want to give special thanks to Stephen Mallett for providing many of the details & background for this story. I also want to apologize ahead of time if I had inadvertently misrepresented any individuals or facts in this entry. My heart is particularly fond of Penobscot County and its people. Please do not consider this specific posting as any form of journalism as some of the events have been related second- or even third hand.
Also many of the factual details are sourced from the following two Bangor Daily News articles:
Fate of ‘The Dog Guy’ in Springfield uncertain
‘Dog Man’ safe after fire destroys cabin:
I was so excited to arrive at Alexis and Craig's home in Newton, MA. Alexis and I have been friends since our senior year of college--hard to believe but it has been 9 years. After we graduated from Colby, we shared an apartment (with Amanda too!) in New York. I loved growing up and sharing my twenties with them. Unfortunately, the last year has been busy for both of us and I haven't seen Alexis since her wedding over a year ago.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
At the heart of Amie’s grandfather’s cabin is such a beautiful and well-constructed fireplace. Its sturdy, weathered stones impress a steady, resilience to the seemingly ever-present Maine chill. Even the brief, wonderous Maine summer nights will bring a crisp cool air. As is natural to all things of true quality, this fireplace has withstood the test of time having warmed generations of the Mallett family. Grandmother Rosemary before she passed of cancer loved entertaining at the cabin watching her children and grandchildren descend from the cabin steps, breaking into a run down the dock, and diving into refreshing waters -- only to return to the fireplace and warm themselves. Amie and her parents lived at the cabin when she was 7 years old. She remembers trekking outside the cabin to fetch wood during cold, wintry nights as her mother tended to her infant brother, Jason. She understood the importance of keeping the fireplace alight.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
On average annually, between 45 percent and 50 percent of Maine lobster is sent to processors in Canada. At this time of year, however, 70 percent of the catch usually goes to Canada, but processors there are not buying.
According to the MLA, there are a number of reasons for that. The international credit problem is one. There also are reports that some processors already have inventory on hand and that others are operating at less than full capacity so they don’t create more supply than they can sell. The MLA also reported that some large restaurant chains, such as Red Lobster and Outback, have seen losses as fewer people eat out regularly. Demand also has softened on cruise ships and at casinos due to the poor economic conditions."
Please help Maine lobster fishermen: Eat More Lobster.
Back on the highway, Hung and I started talking about our feast. We decided we wanted to bring a lot of lobsters to Craig and Alexis and we better stop for more.
A quick call to my brother's girlfriend Katie in York, ME and we had the address
for another lobster pound. In York, we purchased a couple more lobsters and stopped at Katie's to say a quick hello. The day was even brighter after a receiving a hug from The Coop.
Back on the highway, less than two hours to Craig and Alexis' new house.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Prior to 2008, you could enter Canada and return to the U.S. with just your driver’s license. Currently you are required to present a combinaton of your driver’s license and birth certificate or naturalization papers. My birth certificate is somewhere in Vietnam , and my naturalization papers are in Houston with my parents. Amie and I had originally planned to enter Canada and head down to Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, but we’ll now have to alter our route to remain within the confines of the U.S. After “cranberrying” (see blog below) in Vanceboro, ME, Amie's father showed us how close were to the Canadian border. Upon arriving to the border control station, we stumbled out of the pick-up truck with cameras in hand ready to click away. I had gone as far as I could legally go without my passport. Now, the fact that I was not able to pass into Canada made me want to take a vast array of pictures. Before I could even snap a single photo, the border patrol officer burst out of the security area roaring at us, but in particular me as I in no way look like a natural born citizen of the United States, “Do not take any pictures! Stop taking pictures! This is a U.S. security sensitive site! Let me see those cameras!” Though we were on U.S. soil, we had bumbled in exceeding the legality of the moment as it is forbidden to take pictures of sensitive US security installations such as border control stations! My gosh! This was the worst case scenario for me to be apprehended at the border station without my passport. I had not even crossed over into Canada! I don't think I would perform well under a stress-induced interrogation. I did not know to run or raise my hands in surrender! Amazingly, my first thought was not concern for my own freedom but rather for the protection of my Apple iPhone. My iPhone has all my music, photos, emails, games, and loads of other essential neat stuff. There was no way this guy was going to confiscate my iPhone! I’ll never get it back! I almost ran off into the Maine woods and would have been like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. I most certainly would never have survived nearly as long as Dr. Richard Kimble as this Asian is not at all partial to the Maine chill, and Asians in general do not camouflage well in the Maine woods. I'd either freeze to death, get shot by a hunter who has mistaken me for a clumsy moose, or be attacked by a black bear!
To further add to the surreal nature of the events, Amie’s father headed straight toward the fence separating us and the officer and proceeded to introduce himself matter-of-factly and even extended his fingers through the fence in offer of handshake, “I’m Stephen Mallett” as if he was as recognizable as the President of the United States or the Mayor of all of Maine! To my beleaguered common sense, Officer Thomas introduces himself to my father-in-law. “Of course I know who you are, you delivered the lumber for my garage”. This seemingly simple business transaction was sufficient to regard 2 life-long Mainers as soul brothers. The tension in the air immediately dissipated. The officer became friendly toward us and gestured to the areas in which we could take photos. Although I was still unable to get into Canada, I was "pleased as punch" about having some new photos, retaining my iPhone, and not having to become a fugitive. My first act upon returning to Charlotte will be packing our passports directly into my backpack.
The photos subsequently submitted are legal, safe, and in no way jeopardizes the security of our nation's border.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Although I grew up in Maine, I had never been on a cranberry picking trip. My parents have been going for years and I've been enjoying homemade cranberry sauce at every holiday for as long as I can remember. So when my parents suggested going on a berry gathering trip, I jumped at the chance.
A couple days ago, my dad started scheming on his wet vac strategy. Whenever he started talking about his plan, I shook my head and chalked it up as another of my dad's crazy ideas--Little did I know that he was the one who would have the last laugh!
We arrived at the bog and there was more water than I expected. Like Hung, I didn't know what to expect and I wore my sneakers (I guess we really were "rookies"). What was I thinking? I've seen the ocean spray cranberry commercials on t.v. with the two guys standing knee deep in water! So my feet ended up a little soggy but it didn't temper my berry hunting enthusiasm. I managed to fill half of my container but the story of the day was truly the Wet-Vac. I know it sounds crazy but it worked! My father collected A LOT more than any of us and the berries looked amazing.
1 Quart Fresh Cranberry
1/2 Quart Sugar (less if you desire but remember cranberries are very tart!)
1/2 Quart Water (add more if needed)
Wash and pick over cranberries. In a saucepan bring to a boil water and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. If the cranberries don't burst, break with a wooden spoon. This will allow the sugar to enter.
Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
In the fall, my grandfather makes this recipe in large quantities. After it cools, he freezes it in small containers. Throughout the winter, families members are constantly stopping in at his house and grabbing a container from his deep freeze.
This morning Amie and I awoke to go cranberry-picking with her parents. I have picked strawberries, blueberries, and various other berries from nature so I thought that this would be such a pleasant manner to spend a beautiful Maine day. Unbeknownst and undisclosed to me is that cranberries grow in very wet, bog-like conditions.
From Wikipedia: Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the genus Vaccinium subgenus Oxycoccos, or in some treatments, in the distinct genus Oxycoccos. They are found in ACIDIC BOGS...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
On Monday afternoon, Hung and I climbed the mountain in my hometown. In the winter Mt. Jefferson is a ski mountain. This is where my dad taught me how to ski, back when I was only four years old. The top of the mountain offers great views of the village of Lee.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
"A lobster roll is a kind of sandwich filled with lobster meat. A traditional lobster roll contains the fresh cooked meat of a one-pound lobster, tossed with mayonnaise and served on a grilled hot dog bun or similar roll, served so that the opening is on the top rather than on the side. The filling may also contain diced celery and/or scallion, or use drawn butter instead of or in addition to the mayonnaise. The sandwich can also contain lettuce and lemon.
Lobster rolls in the U.S. are especially associated with the state of Maine, but are also commonly available at seafood restaurants in the other New England states and on Eastern Long Island in the U.S., where lobster fishing is common. They tend to be virtually unheard-of in landlocked regions (such as the Upper Midwest), where lobster is an expensive delicacy.
They are a staple summer meal throughout the Maritime provinces in Canada particularly Nova Scotia where they may also appear on hamburger buns, baguettes, or other types of bread rolls - even pita pockets. The traditional sides are potato chips and dill pickles.Some McDonald's restaurants in New England and the Canadian Maritimes offer lobster rolls as a seasonal menu item, called the McLobster."
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Hung and I crossed the bridge into Maine on Tuesday afternoon. For the last couple days we've been staying with the Collins family and visiting friends at Colby.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Dinner with my brother
- The view from my brother's apartment in Nyack, New York. Nyack is a beautiful town located on the shores of the Hudson River, 30 miles north of Manhattan.
- Standing at the end of the Pier in Piermont, NY
- On Saturday, I joined some girlfriends for a vineyard tour on the East end of Long Island. All around gorgeous day!
- A visit with a very happy baby Sophie.