New Scotland?

Good Morning!

Technically, my vacation ended today. Which I am celebrating by getting up at 6 to write before a workday that ends at 8pm. But I have coffee in my Maine mug, and yesterday was a hot and steamy day in Milwaukee, so it’s basically the same thing, right? Probably.

We woke up on the misty fifth morning of vacation in a whole new world. The evening before had been pitch dark and foggy, so beyond some blurry headlights and the outline of our B&B, I had no real concept of what we would see. My first impression was that the room was startling in how comfortable and well decorated it was. I always try to add one “fancy” stay to my travels, as I usually go for the cheapest safe option. Ye Olde Argyler Lodge of Argyle, NS exceeded every expectation. A four-poster bed, an equally comfortable daybed for Best Friend; vaulted ceilings, and a rain shower.

As if that weren’t enough, the crown jewel of the space was the enormous window overlooking Lobster Bay. The sun was just rising (something is wrong with me, where I cannot sleep in on vacation – far too excited to see new things, I guess). I looked out the window to see the water at a perfect flat calm. Not a single ripple. No wind either, and pure silence. Imagine the silence of South Dakota, with the addition of forest and sea. We were in some other place.

My travel style is always seeking a balance of exploration and restoration – which is why I’ll seek out pubs with crazy traditional music, and spend hours in museums or cemeteries. Action and silence. Portland had been action – exploring, sweating, talking to lots of folks. Nova Scotia was the source of silence. It was also, finally, thankfully, about 30 degrees cooler than it had been in the States. As the sun rose, the breeze picked up slightly, and I think the temperature topped out around 75. With C, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on out there.

We eventually got up, got dressed, and headed down for breakfast. I was reminded of a college-era trip to Wales where they greet you and then tell you what’s for breakfast – on this day it was a lovely omelette with other lovely things and fresh orange juice. Fantastic coffee. After breakfast, we took our coffee to the porch and watched a few boats head out of the bay. THINGS I LEARNED: Fishing is done in the winter – especially for lobster, they shed in summer and are not good. A good fisherman makes the bulk of his money in the first six weeks of the season, and you almost never see him except he comes home to shower and head out again. A lobster over 2lbs is hard to eat and you need tools to cut the shells. The more you know.

At this point, the universe decided we’d had enough peace. The hostess came out to ask if we had plans for the day. We asked what was in walking distance, and she was like “…nothing…you don’t even have bikes?” Nope. In my defense, the website suggested that there were lots of options for recreation – and did not suggest that the closest was 10 miles away and that we would need a vehicle. Oops. We actually weren’t really bothered by this (there was a hiking trail nearby and we had books and stuff). So I asked, “when do you serve lunch or dinner?” “We don’t….the dining room is only open on the weekend.” Huh. That definitely is not clearly stated on the website. It’s becoming clear that we are here until the shuttle pics us up in 24 hours, with no more food until breakfast, and no way to get food for ourselves. Hilarious. Still not that bothered, but this is clearly a huge problem for our hosts.

They checked in with us all day to see if we were ok, connected us with some other guests who did have a car to take a ride into Pubnico, the nearby town, for the Acadian Heritage Festival. These ladies were hilarious and welcoming, but the festival was…cute. And small. And over when we got there. We saw some really lovely quilts, and signed the guestbook…and headed back. Around 6pm the room phone rang with an offer to give us a ride back into “town” for dinner at the Red Cap. I actually think that all the miscommunication was worth it because it led us to this spot.

Tiny, unassuming restaurant that also offers a few hotel rooms. We arrived at 7:50, and though it technically closed at 8, there was no rush, no break in the friendly service. The food was amazing (possibly slightly flavored with relief over actually eating dinner). Scallops and oysters from the nearby bays. Lovely local wine. Coconut cream pie for dessert. Medium coffee, but not a big deal. Really lovely service – I have to say, as I work my way through my thirties, I increasingly appreciate when people refer to Best Friend and I as “you girls”. This is totally tied up with my South Dakota life, and it still makes me smile. We ate everything possible and then wandered outside to wait for our ride back.

The stillness was augmented by the huge bright moon, which I fully failed to take an accurate picture of. The whole landscape was lit up, and the water of the bay was shining in the light. Fireflies abounded. Crickets and frogs sang. The peace had returned.

A day in a series of images. Travel is never not an adventure.


Hidden Talents Revealed

Hello there!  Just a small post to give an update on my first ever attempt at gardening!  Milwaukee, like the rest of the Midwest, has been in the grip of a fairly severe drought, which has meant putting in some serious time with the garden hose, and dragging gallon jogs of water to the plants in the front.  This is good think time if nothing else, and given that the fact that the Rosebud Reservation, my former home of three years, has lost over 40,000 acres to wildfires this week, is not really anything to complain about, on my end.

Questions that occur to me whilst watering: “Why do we use potable water to irrigate crops, lawns, and ornamentals?” Isn’t there a way we could use “grey” water, and reduce the burden on treatment centers/municipal infrastructure?”  Also, “If I didn’t have access to running water from a spigot attached to my building, would I bother with this? The artisan well is like four blocks away. Seems like a lot of effort. And “Why doesn’t Wisconsin have any irrigators?” Seems like every other field in South Dakota has one. (turns out, soil composition matters).  Not particularly profound think time, but good meditative space.

The ornamentals in front seem to enjoy the watering routine the most – they are taking off!


This has certainly been an experience!  Back in May, I planted two varieties of tomatoes, three types of bell pepper, cucumbers, sweet peas, sunflowers, basil, snap dragons, and evening primrose.  Some were shocking failures – the pepper plants were consumed practically overnight by evil looking little grubs. What eats peppers? The cucumbers were eaten to the ground shortly after sprouting. I saved one, and kept it covered, only to have it eaten anyway when the cover blew off. The sweet peas succumbed over night to an unnamed malady (green to dead in less than 24 hours – it was like plant cholera). And my poor, long suffering sunflowers…

Seriously, these poor things have been hit by lawnmowers twice (I hate renting), but are still preparing to bloom!

On the brighter side, the containers have been doing quite well!

Perfect little snapdragons – with another plant developing buds. These are some of my favorite flowers!

After six weeks of waiting, the little basil plants are taking off! I’ll be ready to snip some leaves in time to enjoy with the first fresh tomatoes!

Brightest of all – these tomatoes are out. of. control. I was planning on taking up canning this summer, but now it seems like more of a self defense move. I can’t wait for them to start turning red!

Roma tomatoes coming in strong! I’m looking forward to a winter filled with soups and sauces with the taste of summer.

The little snack tomatoes are going absolutely crazy – I’m going to have to take time of work just to get the harvest in!

Absolutely love these deep purple pansies. I never thought they’d live after I rescued them from a sunbaked mark down table in early July.


So, what we’ve learned this year so far is that easy to grow/un-kill-able plants are the best bet for a beginner. Anything hardy, invasive, weed-like, or prone to growing in sewers is amazing. Anything delicate, or likely to be run over by crazy landscapers is best left to the veteran. Thanks for looking! I’m going outside again now to see if the tomatoes are ready.

Sweet Summer Time

I always go into summer thinking it’s going to be quiet and chill. I am not actually sure WHY I think that – I think the only quiet and chill summer I had was the summer of 2006, when I interned 4 hours per day and slept the rest (no joke, coming out of my first year of teaching, I was catching up on ten months of exhaustion) Otherwise I spend my summers working at TFA Institute, or moving across the country. This summer, I have done neither, but work and life have certainly cooperated to fill every spare moment!

Lots of gardening is happening, despite the miserable drought Wisconsin has suffered. Seriously, it rained for about 45 seconds yesterday, and I couldn’t even continue the conversation I was having. The peppers did not survive (something ate them to the ground, but the tomatoes and petunias are doing nicely. I have 9 tomato plants, divided between slicing and paste, and I think I will take up canning as a new hobby this fall – can’t stand to see a single one go to waste!

These little guys are hanging out in the shade and doing ok despite the heat and the dry. I have been informed that they are usually houseplants, so I’ll bring some in in the winter.

Family time has been amazing this summer – it’s so nice to be a short drive away from so many people.  Birthday parties to baseball games, it’s been wonderful to reconnect with my people!

I love this picture – the tiniest person and the bestest Papa 🙂

Cousins bonding over sunglasses – two handsome guys!

Cory keeping his eye on the ball.

Outfield is somewhat boring, however 😉

Brunch is on a summer hiatus – my little window a/c can’t really cope with the epic production heat, or the crowds, but the last one I threw, in May was a lot of fun – pancakes on the porch, enjoying the early summer breezes. Until the end of my days, I will live somewhere that allows me to sit outside.

The result! Chocolate chip, blueberry, and “plain” pancakes, bacon, eggs, and the requisite bowl of berries. Yum!

Using the last of my eggs from the Tinants – well traveled, and completely delicious 🙂

Best of all, Milwaukee has proven itself to be a truly excellent city to explore this summer! From custard, to Summerfest, to farmer’s markets, to the South Shore Frolics (this weekend!) there is always something great to do, something amazing to eat, and some excellent music playing.  In Wisconsin, we never quite forget that a long, hard winter is right around the corner, so we get out there and soak up every sunny moment!

Rarely the winner, but always our favorite – wearing number 5 – Chorizo!

We managed to get photos with every racing sausage that day, a minor miracle on a Saturday afternoon!

Taken inside the Northern Chocolate Co – right before I got yelled at for taking pictures…oops!

Lake Michigan in the morning

City Hall is amazing inside! This was also the tallest building in North America at one time.

Going here now! Kopp’s has nothing on this classic 🙂

Winter Hiatus

Sooo- despite my initial interest in the 365 day photo project, I simply could not maintain interest. We were visited with an extremely mild winter here in the Brew City – which, as a recent return from 3 years in New Orleans, I appreciated. I had been looking forward to long, cozy snow days, and pictures of the frost patterns on my windows, but it was not to be. We basically had a six month November, featuring gray skies, mud, rain, frost, sleet, and a few handfuls of snow thrown in. It was the perfect impetus to keep my head down, stay in the office, and pray for warmer days. In February, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a MacBook Air (yes, this is the first computer that I have ever owned!) and a Nikon 4300 Psi. Owning the proper tools makes my hobbies so much more enjoyable. So, I return to the blogosphere – hopefully to stay awhile!

Here is the recap of the interesting things that happened since January 1, 2012.

February is a blur – it was my mom’s birthday though! I have the distinct impression I spent a lot of that time trapped in a hotel in Dallas. No photographic evidence survives, which is probably for the best.

March, however…

Bought my camera! Celebrated by taking random pictures of things in my house!

Flowers from a friend- tulips were early this year!

Bought some new toys – and threw out (recycled) the vintage microwave!

If my house was burning down, and my dog was safe, this is the first thing I would grab. No question.

Spent time with family, celebrating my Uncle’s birthday! It feels so great to be in proximity to these events again!

Surrounded by family. :

Went to New York to visit family – and enjoy the early spring!

Marcus Garvey Park in full bloom

Little cousin

Battery Park and Liberty Island. “Give me your poor…”

Went to Morocco with my best friend, and stayed at a resort for the first time. I would have liked more local color, and less sitting around, but all new experiences are good ones, right?

The infinity pool at the resort

Nearby homes…a little contrast

Trekking up into the Atlas mountains!

April –

Went to Alabama for the single most influential experience of my Teach For America staff career!

The scene of Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the March to Montgomery. Selma, AL

Pie Lab breakfast – proceeds going to the Hero Project. Greensboro, AL

Catfish Capital of the World! Catfish plants provide most of the non-agricultural employment. Also, it’s delicious.

Started having monthly brunches for our teachers and staff!

Breakfast burritos!

Coffee and mimosas!

Followed my mom’s lead and started gardening!

Mom’s been gardening for over a decade now…amazing.

I planted bulbs last fall – my first gardening success!

May –

Celebrated Leo’s 2nd Birthday! (Don’t judge me – look at that face!)

Yes, he got a cake. One of us should be able to eat cake!

It was met with approval.

Went back to South Dakota!

Yes, this is what it looks like. No, it was the best part of my adult life.

Core values.

My school home, always a He Dog Bulldog

Buffalo on the side of the highway. Since I can, I took a u-turn and drove into the grass…

Wide open spaces

And celebrated my brother’s amazing achievement!

The winner!

Scenes from the wacipi

It’s been an incredible five months – looking forward to what the summer will bring!