I'll never forget my first trip to Maine. My husband (then boyfriend) spent his boyhood summer's at his family's camp on a lake. Driving from Chicago to Bangor every August with his dad, they'd meet up with his older brothers along the way to this sweet spot right at the water's edge. It's nothing fancy. Hasn't been updated or changed in any major way since they bought it over 35 years ago, but it satisfies my basic requirements for "camping." It has real beds (no sleeping bag on an air mattress or cot for me) and indoor plumbing (you can't drink the water but that's a small price to pay for being able to pee inside). Electricity is also key, but up until a few years ago and the invention of wireless HD receivers there was no phone service or television. This was and is a place to get away from it all and reconnect with nature 24/7…whether you want to or not. We spent our first few days hanging about on the dock, reading and listening to the baseball game, occasionally taking a dip in the clear, shallow water. Nothing too strenuous. We were here to relax.
That he was bringing me to this place 6 months into our relationship was important. He had family who lived up there I was meeting for the first time. His Aunt Dot and Uncle George also had a house on the lake, about a 1/2 mile down the dirt road. Their place is much larger than ours and is more house than camp. It's two stories with several bathrooms, laundry facilities and cable TV. So when they asked us to dinner, after a few days of "roughing it", we were thrilled, though I was a bit nervous. He'd never brought a girl to the lake before. I wanted to seem cool and interesting and fun. So I suggested we take the canoe over to their place instead of walking. I thought it would be nice to get a little exercise and a funny story to tell our friends back home that we canoed to dinner. Fueled by a few beers, the lovely view and gross naivety, we got a better story than we bargained for.
The second cookbook I bought, as a new bride, was Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. My First Cookbook was the Alice B Toklas Cookbook, but unfortunately for me, that proved too esoteric for the grocery stores in Fort Worth Texas.
I was a new bride. Who knew grocery stores didn’t carry larks and laurel branches. Alice B Toklas cooked for “writers, artists, and expats who lived in Paris between the wars,” but my dreams of dining with Picasso and Hemingway faded quickly.
Then, just in the nick of time, Julia brought me not only a cookbook I might master, but with ingredients that were available. Just having that cookbook on the shelf made me courageous in the kitchen, while I prepared my canned tuna and green noodle casseroles.
It might have ended there - a young bride clutching Julia’s culinary wisdom of France, while she burnt the toast – had I not seen Julie and Julia so many years later.
That gave me Nora. With Nora comes true girlie wisdom: Humor, Love… and Butter.
In Nora’s honor and with both love and humor for my darling friend, Amy Ephron, I searched for a recipe that overflowed with butter, in hopes that eating Scottish Shortbread might bring comfort to us all.
We will truly miss Nora Ephron’s talent and beauty, but fortunately for us, the magic of film allows it to linger always, and I will always have what she is having.
An open letter to President Barack Obama:
Dear Mr. President,
As a woman who worked very hard to make sure your last opponents were not elected -- walking door to door in the snow on your behalf, registering more than a thousand Alaskans to vote, exposing Palin in the national media, etc. -- I feel obligated to write you about a few of my concerns.
Your secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, recently told reporters asking about Shell's recent drilling permits and Alaska's Arctic, "I believe there's not going to be an oil spill."
Sir, he just wrote the headline for the first oil spill under arctic ice.
"I believe" is not good policy. I believe that unicorn fur is the most absorbent clean-up product.
The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has held to its reality-based position that it doesn't have the assets necessary to cover a spill in the Arctic. The Coasties will have to pull resources from drug enforcement and fishing fleet security to boost safety in our most northern ocean. The Kodiak Coast Guard base is closer to Seattle than it is to the Chukchi and Beaufort seas -- 700 miles closer. Last winter we had to rely on a Russian icebreaker to deliver fuel to ice-bound Nome.
Trusting and believing is great in church, but when it comes to oil exploration and development, we have to do better.
"I'm alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic...I'm alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic--I'm alive, awake, alert--I'm alert, awake, alive--I'm alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic!" (Insert dance moves through entire song).
Since I went to girl scout camp in middle school (yes I'll admit that), this has been my morning mantra. I was recently reminded how important the days of sleep-a-way camp were for me, how they affected me, and how they shaped me.
I spent several summers at Camp Mosey Wood in northern Pennsylvania forging friendships with people from all over the world. I remember meeting new friends from Maine, new friends from Virginia, new friends from Florida, and new friends from New York City. I remember meeting counselors from Ireland, England, and Australia. I remember asking the New Yorkers to teach me how to say Florida with a real New York accent. I remember staying up all night sharing ghost stories, and I remember sitting by the sides of home-sick campers and telling them jokes until they felt better. Home-sickness seemed to be a violently contagious disease that laughter could cure. I should have known my life would revolve around laughter then.
Saturday morning, I was headed downtown for a walk with my dogs. On the corner of West End and 116th street, we passed a couple in the midst of a tiff. She was crying and he was saying “I want to say something that will make you feel better!” She replied “Then say different stuff!!!” I chuckled and slowed the dogs down to catch more of their fight- eager for a little distraction from my walk. The fight wasn’t explosive though, it was just a steam blowing off-er. I slipped my earbuds back in and trudged onward.
Two blocks later, another couple was fighting. Actually, it was more of a mutual whine than a fight really. This time, there was something that needed to be picked up at the store for their baby (that was anxiously cooing from the sling around dad’s neck) and neither wanted to do it because there was other stuff that needed to be done. Again, there was sighing, head shaking and clenched fists from both contenders, but nothing that entertaining.
We crossed into the park and stopped suddenly when we hit yet another couple deep in conflict. He was bellowing about dirty laundry and she was yarping about laundromat quarters. I honestly thought I was on some hidden camera show or something. Three couples in less than 10 blocks? Was this sunny day in May a secret relationship Armageddon? I wiped the pond of sweat from my upper lip and thought, “Huh… maybe”.
by Ann Nichols