Thursday, December 31, 2009

blogger ethics!

I've signed the eGullet Ethics code for online writers about food. Good stuff including the right of readers to expect honest disclosure of any compensation or possible conflict of interest in sites that I might review. The full document can be found here:

I feel kind of strongly about this because I tend to write mostly positive reviews, and some might wonder if they are accurate and unbiased. This is my promise to readers that they are that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's cold. It was about 10 degrees F this morning, and the wind is just howling. I cleaned out the woodstove in the living room, so we have a cozy spot to sit, play Scrabble, watch movies.
We went to dinner in Portland at Street & Co. which was really excellent. The menu is ONLY fish - pretty bold! - done beautifully. Simple and perfect. Nice wine list, too.

Less than two weeks til Christmas. This year, I have a service to play on Christmas Eve as well as one on Christmas morning! I'll need to be better organized than usual in order to avoid uber-stress. Is there anything worse than a frantic holiday? I don't think so.

I'm glad that there's snow on the ground. It doesn't feel festive if there is no snow. It would be wonderful to be able to go cross-country skiing on the 26th, to have a nice, calm day out in nature.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When I listen to or watch the news too much, I seem to lose the ability to pay attention to the world around me. I can remember when news was much less subjective, more a presentation of something more like facts. It seems to me that now everything gets spun, and trying to find the truth behind the fabrication, behind the construct, gets more and more difficult.

To me, the root of creative practice is the ability to pay attention, to have pure and direct experience which fuels the creative process. If I can't have an experience that is unexpected, that surprises me in some level, I have no source material for my creative work. I suppose that I could use the stuff that gets in the way as source material, but it only feels weird and unnatural for me. Mostly that stuff - for example, "reality TV" - is just boring. It is not so much that it is mindless and of the lowest possible quality, not that it is unpleasant and stupid, as that it is dull.

Pre-digested "news" and "reality TV" and all manner of voyeurism set us at a remove from true experience. My use of the word "voyeurism" may shock the reader, but it is an accurate description of our celebrity-crazed culture. All of this is a poor substitute for authentic presence. Perhaps it is because we are overwhelmed by circumstance for whatever reason, but it seems to me a kind of escapism that is far from healthy. On some level, I think that a momentary impulse to escape, to be temporarily mindless, is perfectly wholesome.

"Be here now."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

summer in Maine: a movie and dinner

I had a truly delightful evening a few weeks ago when I went to see "Julie and Julia" at the wonderful old Criterion theater in Bar Harbor, and then to dinner at the entirely delightful Michelle's at the Ivy Manor Inn. I'd been meaning to eat there for some time, but since it is classic French cuisine, this was the perfect opportunity. How classic?
Perfect local oysters on the half shell
Lobster Thermidor!
Creme Brulee
a divine Pouilly-Fuisse
A lovely, warm, clear evening.
Summer in Maine.

In case you've ever wondered if Julia Child was indeed like that, I remember being at the Oceanarium in Southwest Harbor - I'm guessing that it was in the 80s - and hearing that unmistakable voice inquiring "is it edible? how would you cook it?" A wonderful memory. Julia is the absolute proof that one person with passion and a huge dream can indeed change the world, and we're all richer because she did just that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

finding the good [produce] stuff

Simons' Farm Market, Rt. 1, Ellsworth ME
A wonderful farm stand that's been here as long as I can remember. They grow a huge variety of vegetables, and what they don't grow, they choose the very best to sell. There are no other places in Maine where I can regularly count on being able to find both green and black figs. They've recently expanded to include locally-grown natural meats, locally baked bread; preserves, relishes, honey, maple syrup and cheese - including a fantastic local ricotta salata! Since it's on our route to our house in Gouldsboro, we always stop at Simons' first and plan our dinner on the spot.
Good local produce is cheaper and better than what you'll find at any mega-mart, even trendy ones. Buying from these places supports your local economy and local agriculture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Who Needs Arts Education, Anyway?

In my opinion, all of us.

I did actually hesitate for a few days before adding this post. Some might see it as "too political." I asked myself, though, how can I call myself a music teacher if I am too timid to speak up in support of arts education?

In the current economy, "all" spending is obviously under intense scrutiny. Of course, what's actually "on the table" depends a lot on who is AT the table - but that's another discussion. Educational costs are ALWAYS "on the table." Perhaps I'm not the only citizen who finds this baffling at best.

In Vermont this year (and, as I understand it, in all previous years when he's been Governor), Governor Jim Douglas repeatedly said "we spend too much on education." I heard almost no one within the educational system, within the media or within state government challenge the patent absurdity of that statement. I found this even more astonishing, I guess, than the statement itself.

The statement implies that the state of Vermont is spending lavishly on education - that every student is the recipient of luxurious services and amenities, all paid for by apparently unwilling citizens. While Douglas' statement is an easy target for criticism, it reflects an attitude held more widely than we might at first want to believe. In most town meetings, the school budget is rarely passed easily. Within the schoool budget, one item which seems to almost always be "on the table" is funding for arts education. I have far too often heard arts education referred to as a "frill" by people who ought to know better - in public and reported verbatim in the media. I find this incredibly short-sighted and distressing, and not only because I am a music teacher by profession.

All state and national standards for education of which I'm aware contain requirements for arts education - both visual and performing arts. They are specifically included within NCLB. If we as a culture, as a nation, have recognized the value of arts education, why has calling it a "frill" not become newsworthy in itself?

Over many years, I have found myself attempting to explain the value and significance of arts education to community members, to administrators, to other teachers. I have found a surprising number of people who do actually view arts education as a luxury, as something that would be really nice to offer given unlimited financial abundance, but as something that really can't be afforded when money is tight. Almost everyone who holds that view had the opportunity to receive arts education when they were in school. I am shocked that people who had the benefit of arts education for themselves - whether they enjoyed it or not, whether they pursued it further or not - are perfectly willing to deny the same opportunity to our children today.

The fact of the matter is that arts education is not a "frill." Arts education provides a different way of knowing and interacting with our world, a means of understanding and expressing life which is quite different from other ways of knowing, and despite being less easily quantifiable and less easily fit into conventional models of education, is equally valid and important. "Differentiated instruction" is the current standard of excellence in education. Arts education is "differentiated" for every student, providing every student with a unique opportunity to learn in their own best style, and to express themselves without the constraints of the more typical classroom setting. Arts education is the primary means available to students for exploring and growing their creativity, which is an essential skill that they will use every day for the rest of their lives. There are dozens of studies clearly showing the value of arts education for the development of a complete, well-informed, productive citizen. Visual and performing arts profoundly affect all of us every day.

I believe that if each of us finds any value in the arts for our daily lives, if we enjoy music or art ourselves, and if we value creativity as a gift to be used for the benefit of all, we must support arts education in our schools.

Monday, July 13, 2009

summer -at last! - in Maine

FINALLY, Day 4 of sun, blue skies and warmth after about a month of chilly rain! With any luck, the heat, sun and dry air will discourage the horrifying swarms of black flies.

"Summer in Maine"
For me, nothing says "summer in Maine" more perfectly than lunch on the lawn at the Jordan Pond House - open for lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner - on Mt. Desert Island. In an exquisite setting of Maine cottage design, glorious gardens, broad expanse of lawn sloping down to Jordan Pond with the view to the Bubbles, the perfect lunch is served. I like to have a garden salad with excellent blue cheese dressing, but the main event is a bowl of lobster stew accompanied by hot popovers. The lobster stew is full of big chunks of lobster meat, and is absolute simplicity - lobster, butter, cream and little else. The popovers are huge and hot, served with butter and good strawberry jam. I like to have one of the two popovers that comes with lunch alongside my stew, and the second with jam for dessert. Either lemonade or iced tea is lovely to drink with this lunch, but a short but good selection of beer and wine is also available. If you happen to have room left for dessert, wild blueberry crisp with Jordan Pond vanilla ice cream is wonderful. Linger and enjoy the view and the lovely afternoon.
If you have a dog, dogs are welcome on the lawn and waitstaff will bring a bowl of water to keep your pet comfortable.
After lunch, you can take a pleasant stroll down to or around the pond, depending on your energy level.

Near Northeast Harbor, don't miss Thuja Gardens, one of the finest public gardens I've ever seen. There is a small parking lot just to the right beyond the Asticou Inn, and you can take a short hike up to the gardens with views over Northeast Harbor and several attractive benches and pavillions at which to rest. The gardens themselves are extensive and magnificent, with huge rhododendrons, water features, manicured pink granite paths, wonderful trees, perennial borders. The small Arts-and-Crafts influenced cottage is worth a visit if it's open, and is home to an extensive botanical library. Paths from the gardens connect to trails of the rest of the island's system - good for a hike that can be as long and as challenging as you wish. Thuja Garden is one of the best examples of landscape design that you're likely to find. If you're a gardener, be sure to bring a camera, sketchbook and notepad to record ideas for your own garden.

Wasse's Hot Dogs Rt. 3 headed towards Augusta in Belfast, also in Rockland
Great grilled dogs with properly steamed rolls (warm, not soggy!), available with sauerkraut and good mustard, fried onions, with chili and/or cheese. Yes, it's Cheese Whiz. Yes, you want it on your chili dog. (Sophie, my spoiled-rotten greyhound says not to forget to get a plain dog for your puppy). Wicked cheap and wicked good. Also in Rockland.

Jordan's, Rt. 1 on left headed down east, just east of Ellsworth
First-rate fried seafood lunches and dinners, good coleslaw and buttered Parker House rolls! Everything at Jordan's is good, and they have ice cream, but the fried seafood is especially fine. There are tables inside and out, or you can get your food to go and drive down to Lamoine State Park for a picnic.

Joshy's, Rt. 1, Milbridge
Still the best - and best value - crabmeat rolls around. Toasted hot dog roll, a little lettuce, the freshest, sweetest crabmeat, a bit of mayonnaise, paprika on top. Perfection!

Be sure to spend some time in downtown Ellsworth, wandering the shops and having lunch or dinner at the fantastic Cleonice on Main Street - everything is delicious, but the tapas are great, varied - both classic and creative kinds. The sangria is wonderful. My favorite shops are the Grasshopper on Main Street / Rt. 1 South, a few doors north of Cleonice - also in Searsport, Rockland and Bangor - and Rooster Brother, just across the bridge on Rt. 1 South, a cook's and food-lover's dream come true.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Favorite New England inns and B&B's:
Inns at Blackberry Common, Camden, Maine
Notchland Inn, Hart's Location, NH
Charleston House Inn, Woodstock, Vermont
Rabbit Hill Inn, Lower Waterford, Vermont
MOST extravagant but wonderful - Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont - don't miss "The Avaiary"
Charles Street Inn, Beacon hill, Boston, MA
Whitford House, Addison, Vermont

Vermont travels

A bit less travel lately, which is fine. Moving is quite stressful, and I'm really glad to be settled, at least for a while.
My most recent jaunt was to a meeting in central Vermont. I'd just finished reading "Libation" and "In Late Winter We Ate Pears" by Deirdra Heekin, co-owner with her husband Caleb Barber of Pane e Salute, a fabulous Italian restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont. The restaurant is as delicious as the books! Simple, fresh, local food in classic Italian tradition with a fantastic wone list selected carefully by Heekin. If you're in Woodstock, don't miss it!
I also had a somewhat well-behaved trip to the wonderful and very dangerous Baker's Store in Norwich, Vermont.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

travel, Spring 2009

I've been doing quite a bit of traveling this spring. In this post, I'm just doing a quick listing of some places I've visited.

Montreal, Quebec - April 2009 - stayed at the wonderful Auberge de la Fontaine, dinner at Toque! which was even more outstanding than I'd expected, brunch at the insanely fabulous Cabane a Sucre of Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, poutine at La Banquaise (of course), oysters at Maestro SVP.

New York - stayed at the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side, as lovely as ever. Dinner at Le Bernardin! Chef's tasting menu is literally a revelation of perfect seafood. Glorious!

New England - in Woodstock, stayed at the Charelston House Inn - a truly perfect B&B, right in town, an easy, pleasant walk from everything. Late lunch at Simon Pearce in Quechee, dinner was takeout from the Woodstock Farmers Market - both highly recommended. On my next trip to Woodstock, I stayed at the Shire Motel, which I really can't recommend. Housekeeping needs more attention.

Lake Placid, NY - on a too-brief fishing trip to the Adirondacks, I stayed at Art Devlin's Olympic Motor Inn. Very comfortable, very reasonable, in town, fantastic views of the mountains and the ski jumps. Much quieter than I would have expected, although it was mid-May and well before tourist season. Dinner at Caffe Rustic on the road toward Saranac - yes, it's in a mall, don't let that deter you. Lovely wines, absolutely delicious seared diver scallops with ramps, lemon butter sauce and mashed potatoes. An extraordinary, simple meal. Good value, too, especially for Lake Placid, home of $30 burgers that don't even have foie gras! Humph! I can't recommend guided fishing trips through the Adirondack Sport shop in Wilmington highly enough. On a day that was supposed to be a total washout, I had a GREAT day, caught plenty of fish though not big ones, saw and fished a lot of these historic waters.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recently, a number of people have asked me questions that boil down to this:
"How can I start a creative business of my own in THIS economy?"
That's an excellent question. With the economy in its current state of flux, I believe that it's an outstanding time to examine and re-examine creative goals. Whatever your current level of employment, it's a great time to think about how creative process and perhaps a creative career can help you to grow. It's a perfect time to learn about managing and embracing change, and transforming challenges into opportunity. I believe that those who embrace change, who notice and act on patterns evident right now, will emerge in a much better place as the economy begins to stabilize - a place which may be much better than anything that's come before.

What have you dreamed about creating? Is this the right time to begin? What action can you take right now to move toward this creative dream?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

WHAT is creativity/career/life coaching?

Creativity is an essential part of every person's everyday life. Although mass media and spectator activity of all sorts would have us feel otherwise, we are all creative beings. Creativity is a primary means of expressing ourselves to the world, and a primary tool for self-knowledge and personal growth. As a way of interacting with the world, it is a spiritual path in and of itself. My mission is to fully express my own creativity and to help others to grow into the full expression of their own wonderful, unique creative gifts.

My business, Foxhollow Studio, offers individual and small-group creativity, career and life coaching services as well as workshops, retreats, and seminars in creativity and the creative process. These services can benefit people interested in exploring their own creativity on whatever level,whether people who do not think of themselves as particularly creative, or professional artists who wish to jump-start or re-energize their creativity.

These services are especially designed to help any artist who is in the creative doldrums, for whom a gentle nudge in the right direction can provide a way though a dry spell. The way to higher creativity is, unsurprisingly, through practice. I've experienced enough of the doldrums to know that consistently showing up and doing the work is what gets me through, and I've found that this is a useful life lesson as well. Creative practice is a way of doing this where the risks are quite low and the potential rewards are great.

Foxhollow Studio also offers traditional and non-traditional private and group music lessons. Please ask about my one-day Music Exploration workshop for adults, which provides a full day to explore your creative process through simple, fun music activities which include drumming, singing and songwriting. Each of these workshops will be tailored to the needs and wishes of participants, so content will vary. All services of Foxhollow Studio are available with sliding scale and multiple payment options, so that they will be affordable for everyone.


I'm beginning to shift my work to more self-employment as it becomes more possible for me to do so. I only teach two days a week, and am beginning to put more time and energy into coaching and private music lessons. I'm doing more writing - both nonfiction and fiction - as well as more composing, and learning about digital music processing and recording. I think it's not a bad idea for anyone to have a self-employment option right now. The chaotic economy provides an opportunity to develop that business or work that has always lurked in my dreams. This is all still very much in process right now. Exciting, fun, and a little scary.

What do you yearn to create now?

Friday, February 6, 2009

crisis = danger + opportunity

I love my job. I'm teaching music in Vermont and having a great time. I'm passionate about the subject and the work, and I think that students enjoy my classes...
The economy is in a certain amount of chaos, and I'm a music teacher. Past relevant history (can you believe that i'm quoting Dr Phil?) suggest that all may not be rosy for arts educators.
That's the Danger part, and I do not want to minimize it. M any people are suffering, and it's likely to get worse or a long time before it gets better.
The Opportunity part has me asking myself "what else could I do? about what else could I be passionate?"

One of the great coaching questions I've heard recently is "where, when and how does time disappear for you?"
The answer to that is a big neon arrow to your passions.
I'm dabbling in fiber arts, in food, in writing, thinking about what I might LOVE to try. These are all things that I will do if I continue teaching, but if I need to do something else, there are many other things that fascinate me.
So - where does time disappear for me?
It happened just the other day, when I was looking at a new book about Adirondack rustic style, with many beautiful pictures. I hd the afternoon off, and I just sat there leafing through it. When I looked up, HOURS had passed.
Picture books, especially home style, gardening, travel, big art books, children's picture book make time disappear for me.


When I was at the International Coach Federation's New England division conference last May in Massachusetts, I heard Coachville's Dave Buck speak about the "inspiration-based economy." You can read much more about it on his blog:
The central point is that he believes - as do I - that we are moving from the so-called "information economy" to something very different than we've ever seen, an economy based on people creating work about which they are passionate. It's already happening, quite obviously, in our food supply. The Slow Food organization and hundreds of cooperatives around the nation and the world are literally shifting the way we eat to a more sustainable local food economy.
For me, what I learn from these movements is that we can really achieve sustainable local economies, perhaps not despite the current economic recession, but beacuse of it. The Chinese character for "crisis" includes both danger and opportunity. I think that we are facing a tremendous opportunity to shift our economy to Schumaker's model of "Small is Beautiful."