A Degree of Mischief at University of Vermont

The college admissions scandal has highlighted what some have referred to as “affirmative action for the wealthy.” As I mention on my “about” page, I grew up in subsidized housing but went to an Upper East Side prep school with the aid of a scholarship. My freshman year of college was spent at Bennington College, also via scholarship before transferring to the University of Maine in Orono. It was too painful for me to be the kid from the wrong side of the tracks in places where the vast majority of students came from very wealthy homes. 

Then, once at grad school at UVM I lived in a tiny house in the woods complete with big spiders* (steel-toed Doc Martens are a form of organic pest control) and was fortunate to have been awarded an assistantship for two years which paid my tuition in full and gave me a small stipend. However, that also meant my days began at 5:00 a.m. and I didn’t get home sometimes until 10 at night. Even so, my most valuable life lesson learned wasn’t a part of my curriculum, but in a playground.

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Daybreak Snowfall

My backyard is a fairyland right now! I love the way the early light makes it all look surreal, beautiful and blue. Wayne was up at 3:30 clearing the snow with the fancy new snowblower (and old-fashioned roof rake) before he left for the boatyard.  It’s still coming down so I’ll be shoveling later this morning, by choice! Many of you know it’s one of my favorite winter exercises.

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A Simple February Passage

“What other men have thought is valuable, but its chief value is, not to save us from the labor of thinking, but to enable us to think the better for ourselves.”

From “The Golden Way to the Highest Attainments” by Rev J.H Potts D.D, 1889

Some Mainers (aka “snowbirds”) go to Florida to escape February (and the couple of months prior and after) during their down time. I keep it local and go to the couch! February is a time when I do more reading. The cozy simplicity of snuggling under a wool throw with a cup of tea and good book takes the edge off of one of my least favorite months. I’m actually starting to grow fond of this time of year. The more I accept February as it is instead of feeling righteous indignation in response to things like the short daylight, icy public walkways, the lonely glossy white landscape outside my window that’s devoid of friendly furry or feathered visitors, the more agreeable it is/I am! In fact I often think a good test of true inner joy is not needing summery days to have a sunny disposition.

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Introducing The Degu Sisters!

“The Degu Sisters” sounds like a great jazzy duet, doesn’t it? Wayne and I adopted these loves (age four) from the shelter on Saturday. We had never heard of a degu before last week. While popular as pets in England they are relatively new to the US. Degus originate from the foothills of the Andes in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and are in the same family as guinea pigs, capybaras and chinchillas. This adoption wasn’t planned; I saw their photo in my Facebook feed that was posted by the shelter and I loved them immediately. My heart had been broken by the passing of my guinea pig rescue, Tiny Tim a couple of years ago but was ready to love again! I took the photo on the left at the shelter and on the right the sisters are surveying their new home. I’ve been very busy with learning all I can and getting to know them. They are so sweet!

A Simple, Frugal Recipe: Navy Bean Soup

It was in the 1980s during my undergrad years at University of Maine in Orono when I had a memorable lunch at a “non-traditional” classmate’s house. We had been assigned to a small group to work on a project, the specifics of which I don’t recall. What I do remember is that the classmate who was hosting us was in her forties and had just finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with her partner which I really admired. She served us a very simple brothy bean soup that was completely vegan. It was one of the most flavorful yet basic soups I had ever had. I learned that good, filling food doesn’t have to be complex and can be affordable, even for starving students. (Admittedly that may have added to the flavor!) In any case, I still love a simple bean soup, and here is a personal recipe:

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Bring back simple animations, please!

Yesterday evening while flipping through the channels before “Keeping Up Appearances” came on I stopped at Alvin and the Chipmunks. Look at Alvin the Chipmunk in the 1960s versus today. Personally I think the modern day animations are mostly abominations. Alvin no longer even remotely resembles a chipmunk!

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The New England Diet

The photo of me above on the left is from 2009, before I lost 10% of my body weight in 2010 by following a 1950s diet that I documented in my book American Women Didn’t Get Fat in the 1950s. The photo on the right was me at my wedding in 2018. Since 2013 I’ve been reading diet books, articles and cook books from the 19th century through World War II, many of which are New England sources. I’ve maintained my weight loss and continue to have very healthy cholesterol levels by eating a traditional New England diet. And so, I have an announcement!

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Simplifying: Only One Blank Check

I’m always working to reduce mental clutter and recently had an opportunity to clear some out!

In the past I’ve spent too much time feeling guilty and inadequate because I had the mistaken belief that I wasn’t doing enough to help others beyond friends and family. Reading the news daily and passively witnessing reported tragedies, seeing good people fall on hard times or lose loved ones to cancer or other horrible circumstances can be so disheartening. But oh! There’s a GoFundMe! Now multiply that by a thousand. Then there are community causes that I’m passionate about, I want to serve in church and also continue my annual donation to the animal shelter. Because of so many great needs, my donations of time or money can feel like pennies thrown in a can no matter how expansive my desire to be of service. Then, having to set limits by not giving to every good and compelling cause has left me feeling powerless and anxious. Worse, I’ve often compared myself to others who have more time, energy or much deeper pockets. Until now.

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Sickness and Self-Care

That cold I wrote about at Christmas, where I lost my voice? Turned out to be bronchitis which I haven’t had since high school. Cough suppressants, including a heavy duty prescription syrup did little to reduce my coughing fits, but I did have some relief from taking Olbas cough syrup which I highly recommend (and it’s alcohol-free).  Ricola Mixed Berry with Vitamin C (non-menthol) also continues to be helpful along with lots of tea and homemade chicken soup. My voice, although slowly coming back, is not my own!  I sound like a hard-livin’ chain-smokin’ barfly until I laugh. Then I sound like “The Nanny”!

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