Category Archives: Restaurants

Six Years and Slowing

On the "skiddah"

On the “skiddah”

It is March once again, and the anniversary month of this blog which started out as Outside the Box and is now Localista.

I don’t look too fashionable there on the skidder, but let me tell you, I was THRILLED to have a chance to get into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key, and roll slowly backward, oops! I was maybe in the thing for a minute and a half before I stalled it. Heavy equipment operator is not going to be my next career.

What I did learn from this experience was 1)guys who work in the woods are great storytellers and hard workers and all-around great people and 2)enough about operating a skidder to finish a writing project.

Harvesting in the Maine woods has long been an economic driver for our state, providing jobs and a marketable resource. It is a local sort of job, and even with improvements in equipment, still requires a human brain. Unlike other jobs which are being outsourced to…robots. Check out this article, “Your Job May Soon Be Obsolete Thanks To Robots,”  on AGBeat from the American Genius Network.

Yes, computers are now writing news articles. Egads! Soon they will be writing books, I suppose, cranking them out from synopses and outlines, or maybe just picking and choosing from scenarios, character lists, and possible turning points from specialized plot and narrative computer programs. I’m typing this and thinking, “It’s probably already been done, but I don’t want to go look. I’m scairt!”

So, I’m still doing the localism thing as much as possible, have incorporated it into my life with room left for improvement, as always. Those hiking boots in the photo up there? Got ’em at Reny’s, one of Maine’s independent stores. It was the only size of its kind on the shelves, the only pair of boots in my size, and they fit perfectly. In fact, they were so comfortable with a pair of wool hiking socks I also picked up, I didn’t unlace them all day. The support felt fantastic!

Today I’m wearing a combination outfit–a sweater from Goodwill, a scarf that was a gift, and a pair of pants I bought full-price at Chico’s at the mall. I ate breakfast at a local restaurant, but then I got a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s not about perfection. It’s about awareness and small changes and doing the best you can.

Six years later, I’m slowing down but trudging along, one step at a time.

Localista At Large: Shopping, shopping, and more shopping!

At San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art

Dear Reader:

I have now spent many hours trolling through gift shops and wandering in that aimless touristy way that is at once relaxing and exhausting in equal measure. The Teen and I managed the public transportation options yesterday, starting out with the MTS express bus, the 150, from just across the street in La Jolla down to Old Town. There, we procured a couple of Compass passes from a vending machine at the trolley station–three-day passes that would allow us unlimited bus and trolley rides until Wednesday.

Picture the trolley/bus station at Old Town. Two sets of tracks divided by concrete walkways and covered benches. A few bus lanes dotted with more benches with signage listing the various routes going north and south. An underground passageway between the bus and trolley lines–the walls of said passageway artfully decorated with red roof tiles and large stones in wavy shapes.

The trolley are like above-ground subway trains– bright, shiny red on the outside and very clean inside. Finding the right trolley and getting Downtown was no problem yesterday. Soon we were deposited a block or so from our destination, Seaport Village, a recreated seaport development of small shops and restaurants along the waterfront, not far from the giant ship museums and the Fish Market Restaurant.

We ended our day at the Kansas City BBQ where the bar scene from TOP GUN was filmed. This very casual rib joint was laid-back with checkered plastic tablecloths, styrofoam cups for our sodas, and really hot and salty fries. We didn’t order any ribs, but the smell was spicy and sweet wafting from the table behind us. In the bar area, people sat in close quarters at the worn bar over which hung Navy caps–I’m assuming they were donated by military customers over the years. Signed photos on the wall included Richard Dean Anderson and Brooke Shields and a bunch of athletes I didn’t bother to look at. Sorry sports fans.

Today, we intended to go to Balboa Park for some art & culture, but the thought of navigating the MTS again just made me feel tired before we even started. We opted for another foray into La Jolla Village where we did spend a good hour and a half at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art before shopping, refueling at the Brick & Bell Cafe, more shopping, and meeting Hubby down at the cove where the sea lions were diving and flapping and honking beneath a cloudy afternoon sky.

Dinner at the hotel “social hour” ended our day as we couldn’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm for dinner out. Early to bed. Sea World, hopefully, tomorrow.

So, here are the highlights from our last couple of days.

Hotel Suite Kitchen

Hotel Suite Kitchen

Our hotel suite kitchen where I’ve composed some good, fresh salads as well as pasta and even garlic bread. Avocado with everything!

Seaport Village Flag

Seaport Village Flag

Seaport Village: a cute shopping area, waterfront district.

Kites over the waterfront

Kites over the waterfront

Watching the kites flying over the waterfront park at Seaport Village was relaxing…and chilly!

Wax Candle Artist

Wax Candle Artist

Balls of wax are dipped into colored wax and become beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art. We had fun testing out many of the wax balls beneath the handy spotlights before choosing a few to bring home. The artist was very friendly and agreed to pose for us after explaining her process. Can you see the colored wax buckets beside her?

Top Gun Hats

Top Gun Hats

Here are the hats hanging over the bar at Kansas City BBQ. Remember Tom Cruise singing “She’s lost that loving feeling?” Here’s where it happened.

Art meets sci-fi

Art meets sci-fi

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, the main exhibit featured art inspired by science fiction. This one was based on a mythological sci-fi story about slaves dumped overboard in the Great Lakes who created a lost world beneath the water. Note the eyeballs beneath the waves. Cool, I say. Sketchy, says the Teen.

Flower People

Flower People

Another artist created a world where people were able to genetically combine with plants. These are the flower people of her imagination.

Echoes Too

Echoes Too

Walking down the street with no particular destination in mind, imagine my delight when I spotted–tadaa–a resale clothing store in ritzy La Jolla Village! Echoes Too Resale Shop carried some pretty impressive name brands. I especially liked a slinky black jersey Calvin Klein cocktail dress and a nice white cotton shirt. However, I didn’t feel like trying on clothes. It was enough to have found the shop and snap a photo, I guess, for this Localista.

IMG_cafe

The Teen and I spotted the Brick & Bell Cafe from across the street and zipped right over. It sits on a quiet back street across from a shoe repair shop and dry cleaners…and a few locals were hanging out at the outside cafe tables and reading and chatting and greeting each other. We split a chocolate chip scone and drank cappucinos. It felt like Europe to me, somehow. Must’ve been a certain vibe. That and all the languages we heard on the street. La Jolla draws people from all over the world. I’ve heard snippets of French and strands of Italian, watched people of all shapes and sizes and ages and colors brushing past each other in and out of shops and restaurants. There is nothing like getting out of small-town rural Maine and into a large, metropolitan city to wake up one’s interest in culture and cultures!

A Localista Valentine’s Day

How do I love thee? Let me count the quotes.

How do I love thee? Let me count the quotes.

Dear Reader:

So, it is that day of the year again where we turn our thoughts to love and romance. And candy. And flowers. And candlelight. And jewelry.

Well, a few of us turn our thoughts to jewelry. Others bemoan the commercialism of a “made-up” holiday. Some vow to ignore the candy hearts and the smoochy pictures and the sappy sentiments popping up all over social media (“What photo of the pink lovebirds?” she asks with an innocent look on her face.) A few, like my friend, Amy, get really creative and do things like send heart-shaped egg salad sandwiches in their kid’s lunchbox…awesome idea, Amy!

This year I’m treading down the middle of the road. I like Valentine’s Day because it falls in February, which is a nice month. The bitter cold of January has eased into soft snow, stronger sunlight, longer days, and moderate winter temperatures. Christmas and New Year’s revelry has faded in memory. Spring, with St. Paddy’s Day and Easter, seem far away here in the north where the earth is still covered in white, and the bare branches of deciduous trees crisscross against the sky with no sign of swelling buds, let alone a hint of green.

Mostly I like the sentimentality of Valentine’s Day, the one day in the year where you can let yourself get as mushy and gushy as you like, the mushier and gushier the better, and hardly anyone will scoff at you. What about those people you know will scoff? Ignore them, smile, and plop another chocolate covered strawberry in your mouth.

A Library Card

A Library Card

You can celebrate love and romance without spending any money at all. For instance, I made handmade valentines at the local library, where one of our high school volunteers had organized a wondrous variety of craft materials and offered assistance. When I got up there, three children and three adults were happily cutting, pasting, stickering, and drawing–and this was ten minutes before the end of the event. The card above was crafted by one of our creative library patrons for her granddaughter. So imaginative and pretty!

What else could you do? Draw a sketch. Write a poem, even a sappy poem. Pen a love letter…how long has it been since you passed a note to the love of your life?

Don’t like paper tokens? Play “your song” on the stereo and take a long, slow dance. Read the “interesting” parts of a romance novel aloud to each other. Bake brownies together. Light some candles, pour some scented oil into the tub, and take a bath together. Your imagination is as good, probably better, than mine. Use it!

But what about flowers and chocolates and the rest? I told Hubby that he really and truly does not need to buy me an expensive bouquet of flowers this year, but if he absolutely feels he must go floral, then would he mind buying a little something from our local flower shop, Nature’s Way Greenery? Buying from a locally-owned shop means more of that money stays local, zipping up to town hall in the form of property taxes, that money goes to pay the guys who plowed the roads after the big winter blizzard last weekend, maybe they spend their paycheck at the locally-owned gas station and to buy bread and milk down to the small, locally-owned supermarket. Maybe the supermarket owner is ready to plant some rhododendrons this spring, so he goes down to Nature’s Way to get some. Loop closed (minus a few State of Maine sales taxes, but that is a story for another day.)

The moment that money is spent at a national or multinational retailer is the moment the cycle is broken. A portion of the local economy just got sucked into paying the bonus of a CEO in Belgium or India or Bentonville, Arizona.

So shop your town first, and then the towns next door. Today I moseyed over to Waterboro and popped into the Cornerstone Country Market, a locally-owned and operated shop. There, I picked up an avocado and greens for lunch and a tub of lard (really!) from a Pennsylvania producer of Amish meats and cheeses. I use the lard for popping my own corn, for pastries, and for frying up pancakes, but I would love to find a local producer this year.

Love in paper and sugar

Love in paper and sugar

Anyway, while checking out at the cash register, I spied old-fashioned stick candy in all these pretty colors, five for a dollar. Excellent, I thought! Perfect to go with my handmade valentines.

I’m not the only Localista in the family. The Teen, too, chose to present handmade gifts to her “crush” this year: a book of her original black and white sketches glued onto craft paper and bound with yarn, a love letter, a colored-pencil drawing mounted on thick paper stock, and one of her beloved stuffed animals (there is some story behind it, but I’m not privy to the details). All this was squirted with her signature perfume, of course, and stuck in a paper gift bag. Local, handmade, thoughtful, and an expenditure of time rather than cash.

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Drop in and share your wisdom, your wit, and your words.

Happy Love Day, Dear Reader!
XOXOXO

Day 41: Art’s The Bomb

At Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory

Torpedo Factory

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. –From Isaiah II, King James Bible

Dear Reader:

You’ve heard about turning swords into plowshares. But what about turning a torpedo factory into an art center?

This is exactly what the city of Alexandra, Virginia did with its old torpedo factory sitting on the Old Town waterfront. Built in 1918, just after the first World War, the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station produced Mark XIV and Mark III torpedoes until 1945 when WWII ended. The building was used as storage for Smithsonian artifacts, government documents, and military films and records until 1969. President of the Alexandria Art League, Marion Van Landingham, suggested the space be turned into art studios, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center was born.

Artist Studios in Torpedo Factory Art Center

The Torpedo Factory Art Center now has 82 artist studios with 165 juried artists creating, talking about, and selling their work. Visitors stroll along the space, peeking through the windows to watch the artists at work, stepping into the open studios to look at and purchase art or even chat with the painter, sculptor, printmaker, or fiber artist at work there.

More Studio Space

The Mom-‘Rent and I found our way to this amazing space on Sunday morning, the day we planned to spend shopping in Old Town Alexandria. I had heard about the Torpedo Factory, but it wasn’t until we’ve strolled down to the waterfront and over to a gazebo that I realized the large building behind us WAS the art center. Entering the bright red, painted doors, we were very impressed by the space, the bright studios, the concept of working artist studios being open to public view. There are gallery spaces here, as well as an art school where people of all ages and interests can take classes.

Some of the artists had placed “no photography” signs on their windows, so I decided not to take pictures of individual studios. However, the volunteer at the information desk said to go ahead and snap a photo of the general space. We saw everything from pretty, traditional watercolors to bright modern oil paintings to giant metal sculptures to belts and purses at a fiber artist’s studio. We gaped at large paper mache sculptures of animals. We ooohed over some delightful handmade prints. We talked to a couple artists and complimented them on their work.

I decided I HAD to bring the Teen back here as she is a budding artist, so we contented ourselves with the first floor and then headed back out to the shops on King St. and a few of the side-streets where we found some delightful little places.

Outside Bittersweets

We had begun our morning with a good, hot breakfast at the Bittersweet Cafe. This is a homey little place with a couple long, wooden farm tables, wooden counters with stools at the front windows, and tall cafe tables and chairs along the sides. The Sunday Brunch menu included scrambled eggs, a choice of omelets, breakfast burritos, and breakfast sandwiches ordered at the counter and brought to your table by a server. The coffee at the beverage bar was hot and delicious . . . and they had soy milk, always a plus in my book.

Good, Hot Coffee

After breakfast and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, we veered off onto Union St. and found The Christmas Attic where we spent a good hour and a half browsing cards and gifts and collectables and ornaments, not just Christmas stuff but all kinds of lovely things. The space was charming with old floor boards and narrow staircases leading up to the second story.

Bicycle Shop

I loved these little side streets. I snapped a picture of this bicycle shop on a narrow, little street near the waterfront off Union. A couple of the older streets are still paved in cobblestones, and the houses retain their historic charm and beauty with painted doors and shutters and crooked windows looking out onto the street.

Cobblestone Street near Waterfront

There were disturbing posters and an information board calling for community action to prevent a large Old Town waterfront development. I hope the citizens of Alexandria will decide to fight to preserve the historic character of that part of town. As lovely and comfortable as highrise apartment buildings and hotels may be, some things are best left as they are . . .

Cobblestones Up Close

Leaving Union, we headed back up King and stopped into Decorium Gift and Home, a quirky and elegant and whimsical (with just a touch of frou-frou) home decor shop that meets every grown-up girl’s fantasy with its gorgeous upholstered furniture, painted armoirs, framed prints, glittery costume jewelry, children’s room furnishings, sparkly chandeliers, and much more.

Blue Chandelier at Decorium

The saleslady was gracious enough to let me snap a quick picture, saying, “Just pretend you are buying something.” Was that a gentle jab? Probably, but that’s okay. I thought about picking up a sweet, fabric-covered journal, but with all this online blogging, I just haven’t been hand-writing enough to justify the purchase. I may have to go back for the chunky, glittery ring with the fake stones or the precious green-print fabric slippers before the end of my stay, however. If I lived in Alexandria and had the cash, I’d take advantage of their interior design company, d2.

Maybe someday I’ll write a bestselling book and be able to afford to patronize beautiful, locally-owned shops like this one. Until then, I’ll look and report and buy a little something now and then. It’s the best I can do for now.

Decorium Doorfront

The Dad-‘Rent and Hubby decided to forgo the Metro and instead hopped on the bikes to zip down to meet us. After buying bottled water from a street vendor, we decided to take a walking tour of some of the history Old Town Buildings, starting with the Alexandria Visitor’s Center situated in the Ramsay House, Alexandria’s oldest house built by William Ramsay, a friend of George Washington.

Visitor's Center

Next, we headed over to Fairfax to the Carlyle House, built by Scottish merchant, John Carlyle, for his bride. The Carlyle House has a pretty park and holds outdoor concerts and events open to the public. Might have to check that out before the end of our stay.

Carlyle House

We were anxious to find the Yeaton-Fairfax House on Cameron St. because my mother’s maiden name is Yeaton. We were told we were lucky to have the 2010 Alexandria Visitor’s Guide because this house is no longer included on the walking tour. The house is privately owned, and the inhabitants were fed up with tourists knocking on the door and asking, “Can we just take a peek around the house a little bit?”

Yeaton-Fairfax House

I guess the owners must have really been discouraged, because when we found the house, a For Sale sign was posted at the front entrance.

Front Door of Yeaton-Fairfax House

There appeared to be a wonderful, shady, and extensive garden attached to the home. The house was built by a Scottish merchant William Yeaton in 1799. Yeaton also designed and erected the Washington family tomb at Mt. Vernon. Later, Thomas, the Ninth Lord Fairfax, bought and lived in the home.

Gated Garden at Yeaton-Fairfax House

For anyone interested, the property is listed for $5,995,000.

We moved on to a wonderful talk by a charming volunteer docent at Christ Church where George Washington and his family and servants attended services. We sat in the Washington pew where U.S. Presidents and heads-of-state such as Churchill have sat. So much history everywhere in this city!

Christ Church

After the walking tour, we revived ourselves with a frozen custard (I had a blueberry acai frozen fat-free yogurt), Mom-‘Rent and I visited a couple more shops, and then we took the Metro home while the guys headed back along the bike trail. Once again, Old Town was a delightful and charming place to spend a Sunday.

Day 15: Rubbish, Raindrops, & Restaurants

My D.C. Book Pile

Dear Reader:

Friday was housekeeping day (because Monday was a holiday), and because thunder storms and rain were predicted, we spent the day at home. I lazed about it bed in the morning, drinking my coffee, reading, and writing my daily blog post.

After finishing the writing, I sweated for an hour on the elliptical while watching a Charlie Rose episode on the local PBS station about the debt ceiling negotiations. Since coming to D.C. I’ve been trying to stay more up-to-date on the news by scanning the Washington Post online. I’m usually interrupted by one thing or another after only reading one or two articles, so I have a long way to go. People here are news/political junkies. I’m afraid if I ever do manage to get into a conversation with anyone here in my building, I’ll come across as an ignorant rube. New goal: Read the POST and watch at least one news program every day. At least on the elliptical machine I can accomplish two things at once.

After my workout, I cleaned the apartment. Rather than driving to the town dump as I would at home, simply I put the trash down a chute in a tiny room just beyond the elevator. I assume it lands in a compactor. I also took the elevator down to the recycling bay and put the cardboard boxes and empty water bottles (no returnables here) in their respective bins. I’m happy that this kind of recycling is encouraged in the city, but a deposit on bottles would probably stimulate even more recycling of plastic and glass.

Thinking we might try to go out into the city Friday night, I clicked onto the Post page again to see if there was anything of interest going on inside somewhere. The free jazz concert over at the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden was out of the question–outside the sliding glass doors to our balcony the sky was dark and heavy with rain clouds. I couldn’t even see the sharp spires of the United States Air Force Memorial which usually look like three legs of a giant spider about to crawl over the top of the apartment building in front of it.

In the entertainment section of the online paper, I came across a review of Larry’s Ice Cream, a shop as well-known for its owner, “the Scoop Nazi” (remember the soup guy in SEINFELD?), as it is for the quality and variety of its ice cream. We will definitely hunt down this shop in the future, but by then the rain was falling in earnest. Hubby, the Teen, and I ended up making a meal at home (chicken, rice, stir-fried veggies) and watching Leonardo DiCaprio in SHUTTER ISLAND on Netflix.

While searching up info on Larry’s Ice Cream, I stumbled across a cute blog about living and eating in D.C. Check out Two DC: A New Couple Exploring A New City on Blogspot. The blog focuses on restaurants, and I’m beginning to understand that eating well is a popular hobby around here. Hubby says, “Well, I guess we fit right in!” It’s true. We’ve always enjoyed going out to eat.

Our favorite restaurant in D.C. so far has been The Austin Grill which served up some excellent Tex-Mex over in Penn Square. Hubby ordered an Original Austin Burger which he said was the best burger he’s had yet here in the city. I went with the Chalupa Taco Salad with chicken. It was served in a fried tortilla bowl, the ingredients were indeed fresh-tasting, and it went down well with a classic margarita, cold and made with real lime–not a mix. The food was good, the server was really friendly, and we loved sitting outside at the cafe table as people young and old walked through the neighborhood on a sultry summer evening.

(I was appalled to watch a well-groomed, blond family of six sitting at a table in front of us where everyone except the dad–mom, teenage and preteen daughters and a boy of about eight–tapped away on their cell phones/hand-held microcomputers throughout their entire meal while Dad sucked down four or five frozen margaritas. Is this really what we’ve become, America?)

The next week we tried out the Sine Irish Pub in our neighborhood square. Hubby had a burger (sensing a theme? I need to ask him if he’s trying to ascertain the best burger in the metropolitan area), and I thoroughly enjoyed the Reuben Sandwich.

This week we sampled a couple dishes at Champps, a sports bar & grill next door to Sine. (See previous post). Relaxed and happy after a good meal and a couple of drinks, we made a plan to try every restaurant along the perimeter of the square before the end of the summer. I’d also like to find some more out-of-the-way eateries, unique places owned by local restauranteurs rather than chains or franchises. I heard about one locally-owned coffee shop somewhere in Arlington that has focused on reducing energy use. Must find out more about that one.

As much as we enjoy eating our way around metropolitan D.C., we enjoyed simply hanging out at home watching a movie on Friday night. The weather promises to be nicer on Saturday, and we’re heading out of the city to visit friends in West Virginia, about an hour and a half southwest of here in Charles Town, just up the road from Harper’s Ferry. It will be fantastic to see this couple we knew from Portsmouth a few years ago. I’m anxious to see some suburban communities outside the city, to find out what it’s like to commute in on a train every day, to check out a typical West Virginia town.