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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
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- Stunning reversal: McDaniels turns down Colts’ job to stay with Patriots | The Associated Press via the Portland Press Herald
- Kennebec River water levels could stay high into next week | Bangor Daily News
Category Archives: Family and Friends
I’m in a whoopie pie-induced buzz just now! And I LIKE it!
Two things contributed to this feeling:
1) I just found out that the Trader Joe’s nearby sells what it calls Whoopee Pies – and they are nearly as good as Mom made;
2) I just stumbled across www.whoopiepie.org, which includes historical information, recipes, and even video!
For those of you who have never had a whoopie pie, I am sorry. Sooo, very sorry, because whoopie pies are wicked good. You missed out on a deliciously sweet treat – usually two soft, cake-like cookies with a creamy white filling. Yes, a sugar rush of the grandest kind.
Of course, there are variations on the combination. I’ve had whoopie pies with pumpkin cookies, oatmeal cookies, and even chocolate chip cookies. And the fillings can be peanut butter or maple, too.
The Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies were the basic chocolate cookies and white filling.
Whoopie pies are most definitely a Maine and New England tradition, and there’s even a small whoopie pie industry thriving in New England. Small bakeries ship whoopie pies all over.
This is from www.whoopiepie.org:
Whoopie pies are considered a New England phenomenon and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition. They’re one of Maine’s best known and favorite comfort foods. People living in Maine often claim that they were weaned on whoopie pies. These treats are more like a cake than a pie, as they are generously sized to be about the side of a hamburger patty. To eat a whoopie pie properly, you need a glass of milk.
A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but made with two soft cookies with a fluffy white filling. Traditional whoopies pies are made with vegetable shortening, not butter. The original and most commonly made whoopie pie is chocolate. but cooks like to experiment, and today pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite seasonal variation.
The Pennsylvania Amish may get credit for developing the dessert, but I don’t know about that. It’lls always be a Maine delight to me. The whoopie pie history on www.whoopiepie.org indicates that the treat was made with leftover batter and that the Amish children would yell “Whoopie!” when they found the dessert in their school lunches.
I pretty much did the same thing in past years when my family has shipped whoopie pies for Christmas.
So, I had to take some of Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies home yesterday and give them a taste test. Frankly, I seriously thought I would be disappointed, but I was not. The cookie was moist and fudgy and the filling sweet. I can confidently endorse Trader Joe’s Whoopee Pies as being, well, very close to the real thing.
As the photos prove, I finished off one. The photos do not show that I also finished off a second whoopie pie.
The website warns that eating whoopie pies requires a tall glass of milk. In most cases that is true. But red wine also works.
To my Mom, my sister and all my favorite mom’s, grandmothers, step-moms, adoptive moms and surrogate moms:
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!
[This is the sixth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]
Working at smaller newspapers usually means – besides not making a lot of money – that you mingle with people in other departments and you develop relationships throughout the newspaper building. Reporters and editors become friends – and more – with photographers, advertising representatives, graphic artists, circulation workers, and the press crew.
That was the case when I worked at The Reporter in Vacaville. Some of my best friends were from outside the newsroom, especially the ad department.
And knowing that my Nissan was on its last legs, several advertising representatives were on the lookout on my behalf for a vehicle. One day I received a call and on the other end of the line was an ad rep telling me that I should get down to a nearby auto tent sale, which I did. That is where I picked up my Suzuki Sidekick.
A Sidekick was a poor-guy’s option for a sport utility vehicle. It was red, small, boxy, somewhat under-built, and very underpowered – I seem to recall that the horsepower was at sub-100, which is not very much. It was fine on the flatlands, but was no fun to drive into the Sierra Nevada. I joked that it was so small and underpowered that it was much like driving a golf cart, which my friends readily – too readily in some cases – accepted as the true name of my ride.
The Suzuki built the Sidekick as part of a joint venture with Geo – remember Geo? – and later Chevrolet. The Sidekick was the same as the Geo Tracker – later, Chevrolet Tracker – except for different emblems used by the carmakers.
I don’t hear about carmakers working jointly with competitors like that anymore, but it is a bit ironic that my next vehicle, a 2000 Isuzu Rodeo, was a joint-venture vehicle. The Rodeo is the same as the Honda Passport. More on that later.
As I think back on the Sidekick, I don’t recall very many stunning moments with the vehicle. It was an OK vehicle and I suffered a bit of buyers’ remorse, but it eventually passed.
I was having dinner at friends Rick and Michele’s home in Vacaville about two weeks after purchasing the Sidekick. Our friend and co-worker Cliff was there, too. Cliff’s vehicle – I think he was in the red Dodge pickup by then – was parked near mine. A lovely evening was marred by the fact someone had keyed both our vehicles, which we discovered later. I hate that! Why does anyone have to do something like that? (It’s a rhetorical question. I don’t really expect an answer.)
The Sidekick was convenient for when I house- and dog-sat for Rick and Michele and Cliff. The backseats folded down and Lucy, a German shorthaired hound, and Lexe, a Springer spaniel, fit nicely in the back. The dogs – collectively known as Da Girls, Goombahs, and other assorted names – did not seem to mind the low horsepower of the Sidekick. All they wanted to do was be along for a ride and to plaster the inside of my car windows with dog slobber.
The other animal-related thing I recall about the Sidekick is that I was driving back to the office one day after lunch and I was following too closely a cattle trailer carrying pigs. Um, yeah, it was a mistake and required plenty of quarters at the local self-serve car wash.
And I changed out a starter motor on the Sidekick, just as I had a couple of times in the Nissan pickup. But in the Sidekick, the engine compartment was so much smaller and the starter motor jammed in so very tight that it took me several hours and several scuffed knuckles to complete the task. It was a miserable experience and it may have contributed to me developing the urge for a new ride, which turned out to be the Rodeo.
Rides of My Life … so far
Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick
[This has far more details on the proverty situation in Maine. — KM]
[This is the third of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]
I went off to the University of Southern Maine in fall 1980 to begin college and spent the first two years there pretty much dependant on friends with wheels and the university’s bus service between the Gorham campus and the one in Portland.
It was an OK situation, I suppose, since I had plenty of friends willing to give me a ride and the bus stopped near the Maine Mall in South Portland where I had a part-time job at Olympic Sporting Goods selling athletic footwear and other assorted athletic gear.
But my sister was to attend USM, too, and my parents felt it was time for a more dependable vehicle to carry the two of us back and forth between Gorham and Aroostook County, typically a six-hour drive with a meal stop midway in Bangor.
If I didn’t make it clear enough, let me do so now: The Bug, in its physical condition, wasn’t particularly safe for the roads, especially wet and winter Maine roads.
My parents got rid of the Bug and purchased a used Dodge Duster. It was plain and brown, brown and plain. And plain. And brown. But it worked fine enough for a while.
I don’t even remember how or when we got rid of that car. It may have happened after I went to California via the National Student Exchange where I attended California State University, Chico. If I couldn’t walk, I usually was able to wrangle a ride from one of my floor-mates and later house-mates, much as I had done the first two years at USM.
I suppose the only road-trip story I have about the Duster involves getting stuck at a beach in the middle of winter.
You see, I was an activity assistant at Robie-Andrews Hall, one of the residential halls on the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham. (USM also had a campus in Portland, Maine, and I believe it now also has a campus or satellite campus in Lewiston, Maine.) The winters in Maine can be demoralizing – long, dark and cold. So I suggested we have a beach party.
An assistant decorated some butcher paper with a beach scene, but I wanted to add to the scene. I jumped in the Duster and drove to a beach about 30 or 45 minutes away. I pulled into the parking lot. Cold, cold wind was cutting through my coat and snow blowing about, stinging any exposed skin.
I took a shovel and a box, trudged to the beach, dug up some of the beach sand, trudged back to the parking lot, and threw the shovel and box of beach sand in the trunk. I climbed into the Duster, started it up and nearly immediately found that the car was stuck in the blowing snow. Ugh!
Fortunately, a town snowplow drove by before too long and the driver offered to use the snowplow to pull out the car. I’m sure the driver, a Mainer through and through, had plenty to say to his buddies back at the plow barn about the college kid he helped out of a snowbank.
I got the sand back to Robie-Andrews and put it on the floor under the beach scene and changed into a tropical shirt for the party.
Here’s a tip: Never schedule a wintertime beach party on St. Patrick’s Day. College students tend to follow the green beer before they follow the box of beach sand.
Rides of My Life … so far
Part 3: Dodge Duster
Yesterday I received a wonderful, wonderful surprise – eight boxes of Girl Scout cookies!
I’m not a big GS cookie fiend – I’m not the guy who is first in line to fill in the order sheet when someone plops one down in front of me – but it has been a while since I’ve indulged and I was due.
My sister, knowing that this past year has not been the best for me, and some of her much-appreciated helpers sent me the cookies from western Maine where she and her family live. A box each of Thanks-A-Lot Crunchy Fudge-Coated Treats, Thin Mints, Shortbread, Lemonades Lemon Iced Shortbread Slices, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Peanut Butter Patties (I like peanut butter), Caramel deLites, and, of course, Reduced Fat Daisy Go Rounds. (That was sort of like asking for a diet soda after ordering a large meal. Ah, well …)
Thank you, sister Sheri, nephew Max, niece Sophie, and brother-in-law Mark. (I believe Sophie may be a Brownie or member of some other paramilitary outfit that wields yummies instead of weapons.)
Oh, by the way, half of my next plane ticket home may be on them because after these cookies, I may have to purchase two tickets because I will be sporting Girl Scout-augmented girth.