Organize. Budget. Plan. Diet. What a perfect time of year to focus on getting organized and tidy in one or more areas, such as, ahem, my closets. But closets are for another day. Today is about the freezer. I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of gal, but I do like this time of year for checking in about my habits and making sure that I’ve got a good handle on the life I’m choosing by the choices I’m making. And while the garden is asleep and the winds whip and roar outside, it feels satisfying to turn my attention toward the house and our inside life.
One of the things I focused on last year around this time was our food waste. And while the compost pile is always ready and willing to receive any and all organic matter, I wanted to get even better at consuming our food before it headed to the big pile out back. I already had a handle on rotating stock in the fridge, using up pantry items, and having a pretty good plan for leftovers and little bits. I’ve written about good strategies for leftovers before and will be sharing more as we go along this winter.
The freezer, however, was another story. You know, that place that we relegate unused food, wait until it has freezer burn, and then a year later throw the unlabled and unknown mystery items into the compost pile? Might as well be Siberia. Yup. That’s the thing I wanted to be better at. So I’ve come up with a couple of strategies – all of which I knew and none of which I did much of until last year.
Label Everything All of the changes I made were fairly small and didn’t take much doing, but the biggest of all was labeling everything that went into the freezer.
Basically, if I don’t label, I may as well just skip the freezer and toss everything in to the compost bucket straight off. Once something goes into the freezer without a label, it’s never coming out as something useful. Why not? Because I NEVER remember what the thing is. I always tell myself I will. But I don’t. Because it get moved around. Because once it’s frozen it doesn’t look exactly as it did when I first put it in there. Because I can’t smell it to figure out what it is. Because I can’t taste it to figure out what it is. Because. Just. Label.
Once I gave in to the idea that my intellectual prowess was not strong enough to overcome the freezer vortex, I started to love opening the freezer. A year later it’s even more organized than it was initially and it’s something I use all the time, not a place to relegate unmentionables.
To make things easy, because who has time for anything else, here are a few tips:
Make up labels ahead of time, so all you need to do is write and slap
Store the labels and pen in the kitchen somewhere close
Use a waterproof pen or marker, not a gel pen that will smear if it gets wet
Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer so you can see the label easily
In the end, is it stuff or experiences that create a sense of fun, satisfaction, or contentment? When I read this article about Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things, it caused me to ponder for a minute some of the choices we’ve made as a family and why. While I will admit, a new car or pair of jeans is fun for a while, the lasting moments in my life come from time spent with friends and family, learning something new, or exploring a new place.
We live in a small house and while there are times when I’m riffling through a magazine, that I covet large living areas, personal crafting studios, and spacious kitchens, in the end I’d rather live in a small space and have fewer things so that I can ride horses or travel. I’d rather learn something new than have something new. I’d rather buy time rather than buy things.
And that’s good news, if we liked buying things our little house would be busting at the seams. As it is, we still find ourselves needing to be intentional about anything new that comes in to our house. As if when one thing comes in, another thing must go out.
Even more so when we are sailing on the Riggin for the summer. If we think our house is small, our cabin is a fraction of that size. And as it turns out, we find that all four of us can live for 4 days or a week out of one or two tote bags without any feeling of deprivation or lack.
All this to say that I’m not sure our stuff defines us, but I am sure our experiences do. There is some serious satisfaction that comes from knowing that we provide an experience for our guests that they can carry with them forever. You make it what it needs to be for you, but we provide the opportunity.
So create experiences for yourself and your family. We’ve got the perfect idea for you – on the Riggin. And, just saying, tomorrow is the last day to take advantage of our Early Booking Special.
Introducing our newest specialty trip – Music and Dancing with Edith & Bennett and The Gawler Family Band! This trip is the first of its kind and we are excited to break the Maine windjamming mold just ever so slightly. The deck of the Riggin will be filled with music and song and our evenings ashore will be packed with concerts and contra dancing. Performed by Edith Gawler, our own former crew member, Bennett Konesni, and The Gawler Family Band, this trip will be filled with music from these diverse, talented musicians. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a few special guests as well.
Our 4-day/4-night adventure will take us to Belfast and Rockport and an uninhabited island where we’ll feast on lobster and dance on the beach to tunes from fiddle, drum, flute and who knows what else!? (Here’s a sneak peek of fiddle tunes on the beach.) What better way to launch a summer than with the happiness of harmony and the delight of dancing? Here’s a link to a short and sweet video of Edith and Bennett playing in the galley together.
Each day I like to wear something hand made. Most of the time it’s something knitted, but every once in a while a sewn item creeps in to my wardrobe as well. There’s something deeply satisfying about moving through the day with something created by and/or for yourself. Something primal? Perhaps. Or maybe I don’t need to wax on about it, but instead need to say that I just truly enjoy it. You get it, right?
My second shawl was Silverleaf by Lisa Hannes made with Madelinetosh Pashmina in Glazed Pecan. It’s yummy. I need not say more. The yarn color is actually discontinued, I’m told, and it came to me by way of a fortuitous trade with a guest (on a knitting cruise of course) who knew my color wheel exactly.
Now that we’ve all reveled and partied; socialized and entertained; and eaten and drunk possibly past the point of judicious reason on one or more occasions during the past holidays, it’s time for a more moderated approach. One with less. Of everything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and excess. The quickest and simplest way to find dietary equilibrium is by inserting more greens into our bowls and onto our plates.
Green vegetables of all kinds, as many of us know, are filled with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber. What they aren’t filled with is the fore-mentioned excesses, unless we are talking portion size, and in that case, more is a good thing. I’m planning on getting my greens in any way I can over the next couple of months. Here are a few suggestions from my kitchen:
1. Add a salad to an already planned dinner. Easy, easy. This is something many of us already do; just make sure you have enough greens in the house and use a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing for a little while. When you dress your salad with lemon juice (and extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper) you have the added bonus of helping your body to absorb all of the nutrients in the greens.
2. Salad as the main meal. Add protein of any kind and texture of any kind to create a meal rather than a side. Beans, avocado, nuts, dried fruit, cooked chicken or fish – really the sky is the limit.
3. Add another green vegetable to an already planned dinner. Steamed or sautéed is best for nutrient retention. With either, remove from heat when tender but still bright green.
4. Smoothies made with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens. Or add a handful of greens to your already favorite breakfast smoothie. If you choose fruit or veggies that are light or green in color, your smoothie will also be bright green. If you love strawberries or other red or purple fruit in your smoothie, you’ll have to deal with dull green and brown. Get over it, they still taste great!
5. Add pureed greens to already prepared soups. For every soup that serves 4 people, heat 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and puree with one cup lightly packed greens. Add to prepared soup right before serving and serve immediately. If not, the brilliant green becomes a dull avocado color.
6. Soups with greens as the main event. Again, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, or collard greens are the best go to’s.
Spinach Soup (with variations)
This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything just before adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and puree with spinach in the blender as per the directions.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well-washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme frâiche
In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the stock and again bring to a boil.
Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves. Puree in a blender and serve immediately.
Serves 4 (Makes 6 cups)
Soup Variations Chicken and Cilantro Spinach Soup – add 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves with the spinach and 1 1/2 cups diced poached chicken. Puree the greens with the stock or leave it rustic. Cannellini Bean and Pesto Spinach Soup – add 4 tablespoons pesto with the spinach, puree, and then add 1 (15-ounce) can of cannellini beans.
Kale and Mushroom Soup – substitute kale for spinach, puree, and then add 1 cup sautéed mushrooms (3 cups raw and sliced).
7. Substitute the pasta, potatoes, or rice for a bed of greens. For example, with beans and brown rice for dinner, just add a bed of sautéed kale, or even better, forgo the rice and just have the beans and kale with all the fixin’s. Instead of mashed potatoes, add roasted kale or collard greens to your plate. Toss spinach leaves with a hot vegetable pasta sauce and have a warm wilted salad for dinner without the pasta.
It was one of the best seasons in our 21 years of owning the Riggin, filled with moments that we want to absorb deeply so that as winter settles in, we can unpack and relive them one by one.
Many of our evenings are spent under the darkening sky scattered with millions of twinkling stars and singing harmony with the girls to Jon’s guitar. One night, after music, someone pointed to this strange color in the night sky. It took us but a second to realize that it was aurora borealis, a phenomenon of electrons and light, which magically lit up the night sky.
So many beautiful lobster bakes were shared while sitting on the beach looking out at pine-studded islands, digging feet into the sand, splashing toes in the chilly briny Maine water and feasting on the freshest Maine lobster ever.
Whales! For the first time in over a decade, we saw whales in Penobscot Bay. For some time, we’ve yearned for sightings like we used to have and were blessed this summer. It gives us hope that the bay is changing for the good….
Every Race Week is special, but this year’s was one for the books. Even as we started the race, we were at the head of the pack. After a full day of tacking and strategizing, we were in the last leg and just under the hills of Rockport off Indian Head Light. The wind had died at this point to a whiff, and we were all yearning for the forecast 15 knots. With only two vessels in front of us, we saw wind begin to skim the surface of the water. Seconds later, they began to heal and then heal hard. And the wind was upon us. The Riggin gently healed over and when the physics of the sails began to dominate, she started to move forward and pick up speed. The wind drove her with such purpose as we went from a relaxed, everyday sail to a thrilling chase that had us pulling ahead of one of the two vessels. The Riggin finished 2nd in her class and overall! What a moment!
As always, it is a blessing to spend our summers with you all. We hope that this letter finds you all in the peak of health, in the throes of happy, and surrounded by the love of your family (chosen or given).
As we entered the second floor of the place that we would call home for the next five days, the expansive view of expressive sky, craggy mountains, and lush greenery settled around us, just as the heat and the moist air, like a light shawl or a deep sigh.
I’d forgotten how ‘outside’ living in a tropical climate can be. For us in Maine, most days “outdoor living” means layers of clothing. Even in the summertime when we are sailing, our wool sweaters, down vests, and hand-knit cowls are not far from reach. But here, in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, not only were we without a single wool item or second layer, we looked out at three sides of a view though… nothing. No windows, no walls. While sheltered by the shade of the roof, the rest of the home was open on three sides to all kinds of weather. What happens if there’s a Nor’eater Jon thought? All day rain? Oh, right, not in Maine any longer. Right.
I’d forgotten the feeling of warm air on my skin, even as the sun goes down. Even as the sun is all the way down… no need for layers of clothing because the air is so warm. And no bugs like the Maine state bird (mosquitoes) ready to suck the life blood out of you. Just a couple of beetles and some moths drawn to the light of the night. (Although to be fair to the state of my heart, Maine does not have all sorts of snakes and bugs that can actually kill you.)
Jon and I spent three years in the Caribbean working on a yacht and moving up and down the Windward and Leeward Islands before we bought the Riggin. It’s been years since we’ve been back to a Caribbean climate and it didn’t take long for the sarongs, beach dried hair, and flip flops to feel like normal garb.
The impetus for this trip was to see where Chloe had spent the last 3 months of her studies. Based in the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, she explored the country through the lens of environmental science, studying the climate and natural world of Costa Rica with all of its abundance and diversity.
Our first foray into the mountains of Costa Rica was a hike into the… woods? The sensation of hiking into tree-shrouded trails, feeling the earth beneath our feet, and the birds chirping above felt just like hiking at home, except…. The leaves on the forest floor were not oak and maple, but rather, unknown The trees had abutments, vines, and epiphytes that covered their trunks. The birds did not sound like the birds at home. It was the oddest sensation of the familiar and the not, as if in a dream where you know where you are, but then it shifts into the unknown.
A trip to this country is not complete without the experience of zip lining! I could have gone again and again. Initially created by scientists to study the forest canopy in the 80’s, zip lining has become a staple of the ecotourism trade. Sailing over the tree tops, the unspoiled views are priceless. Our first meal, at Taco Taco a favorite of locals and visitors alike, introduced us to the flavors of the region. And thus I began dancing with avocados, cilantro, and lime. Also there, we had a flight of local beers which were unexpectedly good.
After exploring Chloe’s homebase, we made our way to Santa Teresa, a quintessential beach town with rolling surf, international visitors, and yoga galore. At the southern tip of the Nicoya Pennisula, there is just enough panache in Santa Teresa to make it feel like a groovy destination rather than a distant outpost. That overdevelopment has remained largely in check is due in no small part to the state of the roads one must travel to get there. Not to belabor the point, but these dirt ditches, rivulets, ponds, rock walls, and steep grades are distant cousins to the paved roads of our towns at home and yet, by the end of the week we found ourselves feeling somewhat confident in our driving abilities and blessing the roads that keep Santa Teresa so idyllic and low-key.
Once ensconced in the open air vrbo, we hardly wanted to leave to adventure. And some days we didn’t. Other days we explored the town, the beach, a nature preserve, and of course did some yoga. Casa Zen, recommended by our host for yoga, is a dorm-like hotel attracting all sorts of hipsters and 20-somethings hanging out in hammocks and a community lounge. Pranamar is on the other end of the spectrum with individual cabins set in lush grounds and an open-air yoga studio right next to the meandering pool.
Santa Teresa is known for its Pacific surf, which attracts surfers of all ages. I wanted to get into the water to play in the waves, but had to screw up my courage to make my way into the 10 to 12 foot surf. After riding the waves for a while, with my trusty captain keeping an eagle eye on me, I made my tuckered way to his side on the sand. That said, even after going out into the fray, I’m not sure I was ready to do it again. It might have almost taken even more courage to venture out a second time the strength of the waves was so impressive.
Where we ate: Fishbar – delicious mojitos and every dish was delightful and well-balanced. Habaneros – right on the beach, watched the sun set. Skip the margaritas and go straight for the ceviche, homemade chips, and the specials of the day. The Bakery – After 3 months of tortillas, rice, and beans, Chloe was craving a pastry. She found satisfaction at this little gem which albeit caters to its visiting international clientele.
Sodas – The Tico (local Costa Rican) version of a Maine diner. Perfect for a bite of local eats or a fresh juice.
As we said ‘so long’ to Santa Teresa and made our way off the peninsula, we stopped at Montezuma for a quick hike up to a waterfall. A little bite at Soda Tipica Las Palmeras and we were off to meet the ferry. I swore I would not step foot on a boat while were on vacation, but saving 4 plus hours of driving seemed a small price to pay. The North Haven ferry pales in comparison to this behemoth.
Our last meal in San Jose, a hidden gem called Café Rojo, found only after following the gps in what seemed like one-way devilry, was a delight. A Vietnamese restaurant, set next to a local bookstore and art installation, it felt as if we could have been sitting down to a meal in any city in world. It was the perfect segue back into our busier stateside life.
Thank you Costa Rice for the adventure and relaxation in equal measure. Pura Vida!
Having just returned from a first-ever family vacation, I can attest with absolute certainty that there’s nothing that replaces time with family, making memories. Presents under the tree are wonderful (and the hand-made ones are the best). But even more, the gift of unrestricted time, to allow the day to unfold without an agenda and with each other, is truly without compare.
With that said, we now have a way to order gift certificates online. You don’t need to purchase a whole trip, but could just contribute to a trip for someone you love. I realize now, more poignantly, how we participate in these memories and are honored to do so.
I commit one of the seven deadly sins every June on one of our knitting cruises. We have a wonderful guest who comes with delicious knitted shawls and every year I COVET what she’s wearing. She wraps herself in gorgeous colors and luscious yarn and I want every. single. piece she’s created.
This means I have two choices. Surreptitiously sneak a shawl here or there into my cabin. (I mean, she probably wouldn’t miss it, right?) Or get busy.
So, I did the honorable thing (humph) and got busy. My first shawl was this one, called Authenticity, by Sylvia McFadden, who, it turns out is one of my favorite designers. It’s made with Cascade 220 Superwash Yarn in Doeskin Heather, which they have at Halcyon Yarn (our schooner pop-up store partners). I started using this yarn on a sweater which, turns out, no matter what I did, I reeeally disliked. The whole thing just looked like a sack on me and even strategizing with Mim, one of our fabulous knitting cruise instructors, did nothing to improve the level of flattery. I ripped it out and set the yarn aside in the closet for the emotion of intense dislike to drift away. Time truly does do wonders because when it came time to get busy with making my own delicious shawls, enough time had lapsed, and I came to love this yarn again.