eat! craft! live!

Baking, crafting, mama-ing and taking photos of it all. When I remember.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: Roots Cafe

I’d been watching the construction of the Roots building with interest – I didn’t know what it was going to be until it was nearly done, but it’s right down the street from us, so I was hoping for something good. I can almost see if it from my house. (I could, if it wasn’t for all those other pesky buildings in the way.)

First of all, Roots is very…slick. The building is new, the furniture is rustically chic, there’s wood and metal and glass. They have a fancy website. (Which, I know, isn’t an indicator of anything really, but in this day and age so many places still have horrible-looking, uninformative websites.)

Second, Roots is church-backed, though you wouldn’t know it by the website. And you may not even notice when you go, if you’re not paying attention. As someone who went to a religious college as a non-religious person and ended up around a lot of aggressively religious people? I noticed. Like, a lot. There’s a small book shop area when you come in that carries religious reading material. And the people…well, they’re perfectly nice. Very nice. Like in a really “Hey, I’m being nice to you!” kind of way. Ugh, I feel horrible for complaining about people being too nice? I mean, seriously. Who does that? Bear with me. It’s my baggage. I just can’t with the overly-nice “Christian” attitude because I’ve known it to be so disingenuous at times. I’d rather have someone be less “nice” and more honest, if that makes sense. (I know, “not all Christians!” but this is my experience, so bugger off.)

Anyway! Religious qualms aside, I wanted to try the place soon after they opened, but at the time they closed mid-afternoon and weren’t open on Sundays. (They’re now open later, though still closed on Sundays.) So one Saturday morning in September, I dragged the kids up the street and we got some breakfast. The kids got a smoothie to share and some muffin tops. I didn’t try them but they disappeared quickly, so apparently they passed muster with the elementary aged crowd. I got an iced latte (as I do) which was good – pretty standard latte. And. And. They had biscuits! and! gravy! Which I love. Love. And you rarely see biscuits and gravy on the menu up here. (Know where I can get some? Please let me know!) I ordered them with great anticipation, but…they were only OK. Meh.

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They did have really cute salt & pepper shakers all over tho…

I haven’t been back despite it being so close to home, because the atmosphere really threw me. I keep meaning to try it again but when Quill is only a little further away? I know where I’ll go.

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Operation Try New Restaurants: Bueno Loco

I don’t even remember why I was in Falmouth, last September, with only the girl child. (Nutcracker auditions, probably?) But there we were and it must’ve been lunchtime, because we found ourselves at Bueno Loco. (Rather grudgingly, on the girl child’s part.)

Now, I love Mexican food – in all its iterations I have tried. Tex-Mex, fresh Mex, whatever food we ate when traveling in various regions of Mexico… My kids, however, are decidedly anti-anything-remotely-spicy. And I have to say that historically, Maine has not been known for its deliciously authentic Mexican food. So, I don’t end up getting it very often.

Things are changing though! We have newer taco joints and taco trucks and generally the Mexican food scene here is improving. (Taco Trio is one of my very favorites.)

The day we went to Bueno Loco for lunch, there was almost nobody else there. The place is pretty large and decorated much as you would expect a Mexican restaurant to be decorated. I ate all the chips & salsa, with a little help on the chip front from the girl child. My “lunch” was a breakfast dish – I can’t find it on the menu now (was it a special?) but I remember over cooked hash browns and some kind of egg thing. (Huevos rancheros? Quite possibly.) It was good but unremarkable, considering I can’t vividly remember it anymore.

Oddly, the thing I do remember vividly is the girl child’s macaroni and cheese from the kids’ menu. It was good. Like, super good. Did they make it from scratch? Is it from a box somewhere? I have no idea. (If it is from a box, I want that box.) Creamy and delicious and in a portion size way too big for my 8 year old, I helped myself to a few tasty bites.

Would I go again? If I was in the neighborhood. Which, frankly, is true of so many places. There are so few I’ll go out of my way to eat at. (Taco Trio, I’m looking at you…)


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No Spend 2019

I debated whether or not to even post this, but I rather want some accountability, so I’m going to. Even just posting this will help me hold myself accountable.

So hi! My name is Laura and I’m not going to Buy Things* in 2019.

I have a lot of reasons for this. Mainly to do with trying to save money, but also about trying to consume fewer resources.

As a newly-single-income household, I’m going to need to pay even more attention than usual to where my money is going. I’ve always budgeted and I’ve never been a big spender (it’s…uh…never really been an option) but this year I’m really going to say “no” to most everything, spending-wise.

I have two major financial goals for the year:

  1. Pay off the kids’ summer camp before 2020’s summer camp payments come around
  2. Pay off my car (so I can afford to pay my rent come fall)

Summer camp…is expensive y’all. I don’t exactly make it easy on myself, financially, sending my kids to a summer camp they love (that’s more expensive) instead of the cheap one in town (that E hates). I don’t feel guilty about it though – they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. My mom sent me to a fantastic summer camp that I know she couldn’t afford and I loved it and have incredibly fond memories of it to this day.

My car isn’t due to be paid off for another 16 months or so but in order to be able to afford rent on my own, I can’t have a car payment. (Or…some other payment. But the car payment is the only thing that I’m going to reasonably be able to get rid of.) The good news: a lot of y’all have been incredibly generous and I’m all set for rent for the next two months…at which point I will be done paying for aftercare for the school year… So! My goal is to pay off the car while I have no aftercare payments so that once they kick in again in August, that car payment will be gone. The good news: I have a tax refund coming at some point for an as-yet-unknown amount (but probably a lot) and I have a freelance job through at least May, hopefully September. Can I do it? Stay tuned!

Financial reasons aren’t the only reasons though. Lately I’ve been feeling really tired of consumerism. I’m trying to eliminate single-use plastics from my life. I’m trying to purchase mindfully. I’m trying to reduce, reuse, recycle, y’all. It feels cheesy to say so and I know that my own tiny actions aren’t going to save the world, but at least I can do what I’m able to. For instance, recently I ran out of cotton balls, which I use morning and night. I thought, “There has to be some reusable option for these…” and proceeded to buy some washable organic cotton rounds from an Etsy seller, made from scraps. I haven’t used them yet but I’m looking forward to trying them out tonight!

*My exceptions for my No Spend Year are that I’m allowing myself to buy necessities, replace things that break/run out/wear out/whatever, and purchase second-hand items, as needed. For instance, on a trip to Goodwill I found a like-new popover pan, frying pan, and curling iron. They were all things I’d wanted for ages and second-hand cost me under $10 for the lot. And those cotton rounds? I was either going to have to buy more disposable products or I could spend a bit more and have a reusable option for, hopefully, a very long time into the future. I make my own rules, yo.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: LOBSTER!

Ok, y’all, I know lobster isn’t a restaurant. But I’m claiming it for August because it’s notable. I’m a Mainer. I grew up here. I’ve lived here again for the past almost-ten years. I love seafood. But? I have never had a lobster. I’ve eaten lobster – in mac ‘n’ cheese, lobster rolls, ravioli… But never a whole lobster.

Do I lose my Mainer badge?

My First Lobster

(It was delicious.)

And the occasion? My BFF got married and I was one of the privileged few to be there. So much love!

Amy & Patrick

sunflowers at the wedding

always and forever


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Operation Try New Restaurants: June

I went all out in June. (Partly on the company dime. Thanks for coming, visiting researcher!)

In no particular order:

Firstly, Woodford F&B – this was the one I was lucky enough to have paid for. We went out for lunch as a farewell to a researcher who’d been with us for a bit. We each had a different type of Fancy Lemonade!

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So fancy!

I can’t even remember what was happening in my life at this point, but I do remembering a pressing need to eat vegetables, so I opted for a Cobb salad, which was delicious.

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Fancy vegetables.

And I took full advantage and ordered dessert too – something seasonal – a crisp involving rhubarb and perhaps other fruit with a honey ice cream that was to die for.

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Fancy crisp with fancy ice cream.

Next, we discovered a new restaurant just down the street from us – Blazes Burgers. It was new at the time and within walking distance of our house and across from the park/playground and they have burgers! And fries! And tots! And they’re attached to an ice cream shop too! So basically we ate here a lot over the summer. It’s decent, inexpensive, and a kid-pleaser. Thumbs up.

I took the kids to Flea Bites in Congress Square for some delicious eats. We met my mother there and took turns wrangling children in a busy downtown spot while trying to order food from various different food trucks. My main meal-like food item was this amazing sandwich from Nom Bai. Yes. Yes.

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We also got an assortment of donuts from Eighty 8 Donuts. I opted for a variety with CBD, and offered to share with my mom but she mis-heard me saying “CBD” and thought I said there was “seaweed” in them?

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H opted for a flavor coated in fruity pebbles and could not have been happier. I tried to talk him out of it. It did not work.

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That’s a monkey around his neck.

And the last food-I’ve-eaten-with-my-mom-in-June location was Empire Chinese Kitchen, which we went to at her request. She’d been trying to get me to go for ages – I just wasn’t sure how the kids would like it. Turns out I was mostly right to be wary. I loved it. They? Not so much.

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H dares to eat some bacon fried rice. Fried rice! With bacon! And corn! What’s not to love?

We got a variety of small dishes including: char siu bao (BBQ pork stuffed buns), bacon fried rice (the kids’ fave), honey walnut shrimp (my mom’s fave), szechuan cold cucumbers (which only I ate…and loved), and I think some Chinatown roast pork? It was all good. My problem with small plates places is I always want to try everything and then I end up with a stuffed belly and a decidedly un-stuffed wallet. I try to remember that I can just come back and try something else, but in reality the chances of me actually going back are pretty slim, given how much I get out. (I know. I went out a lot in June. It’s unusual.)

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These don’t even look like shrimp.

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Like pickles. Only not quite. Delicious nonetheless.

And that wraps up my adventures in New Food from last June! I swear I’ll finish this up before the summer.


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Operation Try New Restaurants: Danish Pastry House (and Popeye’s!)

In May, I was recovering from mono (fun!) when I went down to Tufts for a work event. During the previous week or two I had experienced such an awful sore throat and mouth pain (from the mono! fun!) that I had barely eaten at all. Even water was painful. The day I went down to Massachusetts started off no differently – I barely ate breakfast. (Did I eat breakfast? I may not have.) Around mid-morning, we were provided with the standard conference-fare-morning-snacks: muffins & yogurt & whatnot. I figured I’d try some and lo and behold I was actually able to eat something without excruciating pain!

And thus I ended up going across the street to the Danish Pastry House where the service was a little slow, the inside temperature was overwhelmingly hot, and my food was absolutely amazing. I think I got a salad and a little fruit tart, but I honestly don’t even remember. Also it is possible that I was so overjoyed to be eating solid food that anything would have been outstanding.

On the way home, I stopped at the Popeye’s at the highway rest stop because I’ve never been to Popeye’s. (Fried chicken joints are not A Thing I grew up around and still mostly don’t exist up here.) I had chicken tenders! And mashed potatoes that I’m pretty sure were instant! And gravy! And a buttery biscuit! The chicken was terrible but I’ve had it since and I think I got a particularly awful batch. Regardless, would not recommend, unless you’re on a road trip!


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Operation Try New Restaurants: April

OK, y’all, I’m a wee bit embarrassed about April’s new restaurants. After all the excitement of March, I guess I just had to tone it down a bit?

One new-to-me place we hit up was Goody’s Pizzeria, near the kids’ school. And truly, the only reason we went there was because there was some school function or other that required us staying near school instead of going home for dinner and coming back again. It’s within walking distance. They have mediocre pizzas and an assortment of salty snacks and sugary drinks. It’s not McDonald’s, which was the main draw. The inside was old-school charming and my kiddos got a big kick out the photos over every table and the tiny bathroom. It was perfect for what it was.

The other place we went in April was…99 Restaurant. Restaurants? The 99? I don’t even know how to refer to it. Basically the only big box, chain-type restaurants we go to are Chipotle and McDonald’s. But this whole casual style, eat in, chain restaurant thing is new to my kids! It was a family adventure – we met up with my aunt & uncle in their town and they took us out to lunch. I can definitely see the appeal of eating at a place like this with kids. Crayons! Coloring papers! Chocolate milk! Lemonade! Everything included in the kids’ meal, even dessert! (Which I’m fairly certain we never got and never mentioned because really how much sugar do my children need.)

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Everybody wants to sit next to Uncle Jim.