Have You Thanked a Lineman Today?

On any given day, most of us come home, flip on a light switch or turn on the TV and do not think twice about that little luxury. But when the power goes out, what do you think about then? Maybe you get frustrated because you were halfway through making dinner for your family. Or maybe a little annoyed that your favorite TV show was interrupted. Do you ever wonder what’s going on outside while you wait for your power to come back on?

When you hear the term ‘first responder’ I’m sure your thoughts go to paramedics, policemen, and firefighters. They should also go to linemen. If a building is on fire or an overhead wire comes down across the road, these other first responders need linemen (or troubleshooters) to make the situation safe for them. If your power goes out, troubleshooters are the ones to show up. They are first responders in their own right.


It takes a special kind of person to become a lineman. Linemen have one of the top 10 most dangerous professions and they’re probably the most under appreciated for the work that they do. Working for a utility company, I talk to these men (and occasionally women) nearly every single day. At times, I’ve overheard conversations with customers. Mostly, they want to know when the power is going to come back on and a lot even want to know what caused it. It’s understandable, but for me, being on the other side of that equation, my priorities have shifted.

There is more to restoring power than flipping a switch and a lot of times, it takes more than one person to complete a job. If you see a troubleshooter or lineman sitting in his truck ‘not doing anything’, it’s possible he’s on the phone with another guy that can come give him a hand. Or he’s calling into dispatch for further directions or to tell us he needs a crew. And chances are if this happens in the middle of the night, it’s going a take a while to get more people out there. Add in rain, wind, snow, and ice and it’s going to take even longer (because while restoring your power is important; safety takes precedence over everything else).

So to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to keeping the power on;
Who work in all weather conditions away from their families so that you may be comfortable at home with yours;
Who work for 16 hours straight, go home for 8 hours to eat, shower, and sleep, and come back and do it all again;
Who put their lives on the line day in and day out;
Who are under appreciated for all the work they do;
Who get called in the middle of the night to come to work;
Who understand the risks and who’s families understand the risks of what’s involved and continue to do the work anyway…

Thank you.

Today, April 18th, is National Lineman Appreciation Day. If you’d rather stay in the comfort of your own home during a storm over working out in the elements, then you too should #ThankALineman.

P.S. As an avid Crossfitter, we voluntarily participate in HeroWODs. These workouts, meant to honor fallen soldiers, are brutal and designed to test our physical and mental abilities. It’s a few moments of discomfort to remind ourselves of what others are sacrificing for us to continue living the way we do. Heroes come in different forms so in honor of today and linemen everywhere, I will be completing the following workout:

‘The Lineman’
400m Sandbag Run (50#)
16 Thrusters (75/55)
3 15′ Rope Climbs

–  Rest 3 minutes (‘coffee break’) –

21 Pull ups
50 Squats


Simply: Cucumber Cilantro Smoothie

The flu is going around. It’s an epidemic at my Crossfit gym and let me tell you, it is NASTY.

I can’t remember the last time I had the flu. It’s probably been 2 or 3 years since I’ve even been sick. I have spent the last 7 days either sleeping, on the couch, or eating (when I actually remembered to feed myself). Theraflu and Ibuprofen have been my constant companions, the only things that kept me sane during the worst moments. Have you ever had body aches so bad that your gums hurt? That was a first. After about 4 days, when the worst of it was over, I realized that I hadn’t eaten much else than white/starchy carbohydrates. As soon as I was able to get to a store, I bought the ingredients for this smoothie.

Look – we’re friends, right? We trust each other. I wouldn’t be sharing this if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. When your body is craving something fresh and easy to handle, smoothies are a good choice. This smoothie is a good choice. Don’t let the cilantro fool you. It has as much of a place in this smoothie as the banana. Listen when I tell you this: cilantro belongs in this smoothie.

I have to admit, the first time I looked at this recipe I was apprehensive; and in a normal situation there’s a very good chance I would have skipped right on over it but when a cookbook author sends you 10 recipes to test and comment on there’s not really any choice in the matter. This recipe came to me from one of my favorite people, Annie Mahle: chef extraordinaire on the J&E Riggin. (She has a new cookbook coming out!) Her recipes are fantastic. I trust her. You should trust me.


Cucumber Cilantro Smoothie
yield: 3 cups

5 ounces partially peeled cucumber
2 cups spinach
1/4 cup cilantro
1 medium banana
1 TB lemon juice
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. (I usually blend for about 45 seconds in my Blendtec.)

One final reason to try this: As assuredly as Ned Stark is about winter, I am that about spring. Spring. Is. Coming. And Spring will bring us handfuls of fresh herbs to be using in this smoothie. If you’re one those people that don’t eat cilantro because it tastes like soap, you could easily swap it out for some mint or anything else that sparks your fancy.


Winter Camping

As a native Wisconsinite, the best weather is usually limited to the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Good weather can be found sometimes starting as early as March and as late as sometime in October. By ‘good’ weather I mean that it hasn’t snowed yet and the temperature is hovering somewhere in the low to mid-forties. When a third of the year can qualify as winter, what do you do during those cold months when you don’t want to sit inside and you’re not quite coordinated enough to downhill ski? The same things you do in summer: hike and camp (with a little extra help, of course.)


Ignore the cold for a moment and picture this:

You walk into a park with no one around for miles, except for maybe the park ranger you greeted when you entered. In the distance you hear the wind blowing through the trees, the skittering of a squirrel, or maybe the sound of a small animal moving through the brush. The sun is shining bright, though a little lower this time of year. There are no bugs to swat away as you stand taking it all in. You know that campsite you’ve always wanted? The larger one near the lake or in the densest part of the trees? It’s all yours and you didn’t even have to fight for it.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert camper by any means. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve camped even in the summer. You don’t need a lot of experience to winter camp as long as you do your research or go with someone who knows what they’re doing. I joined an adventure group at the end of last year and it was with them that I tried my hand at winter camping for the first time. It was just as fun, if not more, than any time I have camped during the summer.


The trails were a little icy on our hike in to camp and I took a spill at one point. Most of the larger gear that was brought along was pulled in on sleds. In deeper snow, we likely would have needed snowshoes. This particular weekend we happened to be okay in our snow boots. It’s crucial on the hike in that you remove enough layers to prevent yourself from sweating. Any sweat that remains trapped in your clothing will make you colder. Aside from proper clothing, you need a large fire suitable for cooking big hearty meals. With colder temperatures, you need more calories to help regulate your body temperature. It’s also extremely important that you stay hydrated. It’s amazing how much warmer you feel when you’re drinking enough water.

Our group of campers was a motley crew of old timers and brand new people. We made it work with the old hats teaching us first timers the specifics of building a proper fire (long and rectangular as opposed to round) and selecting the best wood for heat (a lot of small pieces for high BTU output plus some larger, long burning logs). We shared meals, stories, and a lot of laughter. The overnight temperature reached somewhere between -4F and -10F depending on which smart phone you looked at but with my big fluffy sleeping bag, it wasn’t unbearable. It was an experience to remember and who knows, I’ll probably try it again sometime.


Intentions & Reflections



Now that we are more than a week into the New Year (2017) how is everything going for you? Do you feel like much has changed over the last week as we’ve begun transitioning into new beginnings? I never was one for resolution making… the idea always seemed kind of silly to me. I set a list of goals for 2016 and more than a few went unaccomplished. I am 100% okay with that because I made progress on the things that were important to me and let other things fall by the wayside. I’m quite proud of my accomplishments last year.

One lofty goal was to read 26 books. That’s one book every two weeks! While feasible for some, I fell quite a bit short. I read 10. Of those 10, eight were non-fiction. I came to the realization this year that I LOVE non-fiction books and that makes up for the other 16 books I missed reading.

Another goal last year was to visit 5 new places. I hit this goal out of the park thanks to two road trips. Road trip #1 took me south down the Great River Road from Dubuque, IA to New Orleans, LA with stops along the way in Hannibal, Memphis, Onward, and at Oak Alley. I headed home via Nashville. Road trip #2 took me east to Maine with a stop at Allegheny College to visit a friend and seeing Niagara Falls for the first time. I visited something like 14 new places in 2016.

For shits and giggles I applied to the NASA Space Program (they never called), I learned how to knit and have been working on a pair of socks since July, and I once again maxed out my 401k. I failed to learn how to handstand walk and did NOT get my ears pierced.

This year, I decided to go about things a little differently. Instead of setting specific goals, I set intentions for myself. These intentions are things that I can remind myself of daily and practice when time allows or when necessary. They are personal things that I believe will help improve my life and how I want to be living. Some of these intentions include:

  • write more – I’ve always enjoyed writing, whether it be lists or short stories but somehow they tend to disappear or I find them not compelling or ‘good enough’ to share. However, I truly believe that everyone has a story and I believe those stories deserve to be told. One of the tools I am using to do this is this blog.
  • disconnect to reconnect – We live in such a fast paced world that I feel as if I’m losing touch with the world around me. We’ve never been more connected to each other and yet, it seems, we aren’t truly making connections with anything or anyone. I’ll be switching my phone off more often and limiting time online in an effort to reground myself and be more involved with the world physically surrounding me.
  • have a purpose – for everything. This includes the things I own, the people I interact with, and how I spend my time. De-cluttering/minimizing the things that are no longer important and cutting the toxicity out of my life in order to improve the quality of experiences with everything else.
  • do something everyday to lessen man’s negative impact on earth – I think this speaks for itself.. We only have one planet to live and enjoy our lives you’d think we would take better care of it. Earth is beautiful and I hope that she’ll be around for a very long time for the generations to come to enjoy as much as we do. Whether it be socially or environmentally; making the world a better place for everyone.

As I live out these intentions for the year, I will be keeping in mind a quote that appeared to me early in 2016 and has resonated with me since then; from the New York Times article ‘The Wisdom of the Aged‘:

“I would say, that I am applying the ‘butterfly wing’ theory to my everyday life,” [Jonas Mekas] wrote. “It’s a kind of moral dictum, moral responsibility to keep in mind that whatever I do this second affects what the next second will be. So I try not to do anything negative, which is my best insurance that the world will be better next second, or at least not worse. But of course, my positive action may be undermined by 100 negative actions of others and so it may mean nothing. But I still have to follow that dictum. You can call it optimism.”

Here’s to an exuberant and fulfilling year ahead.

Muster – A Cake

I wanted to post this article before the election but I didn’t know what to write. There was so much bantering and bickering going on that I used the potential backlash as an excuse to not write… but now that the electoral college has cast their votes making Donald Trump the official President Elect to be inaugurated in January, there’s a conversation I still feel is important: voter turnout.

Early results showed that voter turnout for this year’s presidential election was around 55%. The number of eligible, registered voters showing up to the polls hasn’t been that low since the  ’96 Clinton (D) v. Dole (R) election. I’m interested to know what caused people to seemingly not care as much and how we can make people more willing to vote for whom and what they think is right.

Enter: the election cake.


Election Cake (or as it was originally called, ‘muster’ cake) dates back to Colonial America. Women would bake these naturally-leavened spice cakes and give them to the men summoned by the British for military training. Only after the American Revolution did it evolve into what we know it as today. Elections used to be a time of celebration; for communities to come together and have a big ol’ party. The cake was generally commissioned by the town to encourage people to come to town hall and vote. (It was also a sneaky way for women to be involved in the voting process.)

This year, Old World Levain kickstarted a grassroots project encouraging home and professional bakers to create their own election cake in an attempt to bring back a historic tradition. Even though this year’s election is over, I know I’ll be continuing to bake these cakes annually to help ‘Make America Cake Again’.


I used the Election Cake (2) in Formulas for Professional Bakers from OWL’s website with the following: a ‘spice blend’ consisting of 1 TB cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp sumac, 1/4 tsp ginger and 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 2 TB barley malt syrup to replace 2 TB honey, no sherry or boozy fruit, and topped with a black tahini frosting. The cake was dense and not too sweet; exactly the way it should be.

P.S. Yes, that’s a cat plate. It was a rummage sale find by my aunt who then gifted it to me for my birthday this year.


Maine Home

magic [maj-ik]; adjective: mysteriously enchanting, considered to possess mysterious powers, (informal) wonderful; marvellous; exciting

Maine is magic.

There are so many words to describe it and yet none really fit.

Four years ago, I read an article about the J&E Riggin and immediately felt a draw; I had never been sailing in my life and yet I knew I had to do it, to experience it for myself. Despite all of these overwhelming feelings, it still took me two more years to finally get out to Maine. The J&E Riggin, an oyster dredger from 1927 converted for passenger sail, offers 3, 4 and 6-day cruises around Penobscot Bay. Not knowing one gosh darn thing about sailing and not knowing whether or not I would even enjoy it, I found myself signing up for the 6-day Music, Sea History and Storytelling Cruise. I fell in love: with sailing and with Maine.


J.&E. Riggin at anchor.

In the two years since, I’ve been sailing on the Riggin a total of 4 times, with my fifth adventure coming up in September. Last May, I decided to treat myself for my birthday. That one was too short, only 3 days. Last September, I came back again for a just slightly longer 4-day. Most recently was a 6-day cruise this past July for the Great Schooner Race 2016. Six days is really the only way to experience everything these windjammers have to offer.

The current owners (‘stewards’ they like to say) are the husband and wife duo/super team Capts. Jon Finger and Annie Mahle. Annie is also the chef and the meals she turns out of her tiny little galley are impressive. Some 95% of the food she serves is local, a lot of it coming from a CSA and a significant amount coming from their own home garden. While Annie is a trained chef, she’s really figured out how to utilize what’s available to her and in season any given week. Every trip, so far, I’ve come home and had to recreate at least one thing that she made. Last fall she roasted a head of cauliflower with butter, mayo, mustard and capers… I think I came home and made it over and over again for months.


Salmon and Tri-pepper Corn Salsa

Like many of the historic windjammers, one evening of every trip is spent on a small island for a traditional lobster bake. Lobster, corn, potatoes, and lotsah buttah. Burgers or dogs for those who don’t like seafood. Plus s’mores for dessert. The Riggin crew operates under a leave no trace policy. Everything that is brought to the island, leaves the island with us (and sometimes additional trash) and everything natural found on the island is left alone to fluorish.

lobster bake

As incredible as the food is, it’s just an added bonus to the sailing and the scenery of Penobscot Bay. There’s no itinerary. Seriously. Ask Capt Jon where we’re headed and he’ll tell you he doesn’t know. Or he may list off a few possibilities. The journey is determined by the wind. (In the cases where there is no wind, an external yawl boat is dropped into the water to help push us along but is only used when absolutely necessary.)

As we sail, some people are on the lookout for lighthouses and wildlife. Porpoise and harbor seal are a fairly frequent sight, the seal especially can be found basking on sun filled rocks. It’s always fun to spot the other windjammers from the fleet sailing around the bay as well. Others still, will read or knit or nap on deck. You choose what you want to do.


Soon everyone falls into a routine. You sleep when you’re tired, you wake up when you want to. There’s coffee on deck by 7am and there’s almost always hot water and coffee available on deck or in the galley. At 8AM, the ship’s bell rings to signify breakfast. It rings again at noon and again at 6PM. It’s not uncommon to feel like you just ate not that long ago. Depending on where we anchor at night, we often get an hour or two of shore time in the morning to explore the little seaside towns before setting sail again. (A favorite for many is Brooklin, ME; home to Wooden Boat School.) Passengers are encouraged to help set sails and weigh anchor but it’s never a requirement. People talk and tell stories about their lives. When you spend that much time with people in close quarters, it’s inevitable that close bonds are created.


Sign on Isle Au Haut

Capt. Jon and Annie (and their daughters and the crew and the other passengers) have become like family. I’ve felt that way since the first time I ever stepped on board. They welcome you with open arms into their summer home. Every time I go, it gets harder and harder to leave.

In Annie’s first (she has two more) cookbook At Home, At Sea she writes, “Jon tells the story of driving all the way from Indiana to Maine for the first time. When he stepped out of the car and breathed in, he knew he’d found the place where his heart was most full. I feel the same. I feel less encumbered in Maine than I do anywhere else I’ve ever traveled or lived.”


I whole-heartedly agree.

Introducing tiny oranges: a bleearrrgh.

Bleeeaarrrrgh (or any combination thereof) = Blog, in case you didn’t figure that out.

It’s a place for me to compose my thoughts and talk about things I want to share with friends. It’s designed to be about food, travel, things I’m doing around home and my hometown, and whatever else I feel like talking about. Mostly, it’s a story about my life. This way, when I die, someone will be able to write an incredibly accurate biography about all the unimportant things I do in addition to the somewhat important things.

If you’d like to know more about myself, visit my about me page! Otherwise, stay tuned for more.