Archive for July 2015

07-31-2015 Journal– I’d Like a “Grande” Please!   Leave a comment

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Starbucks . . . what can I say about Starbucks?  Something good? Something bad?  I have it . . . something sarcastic, of course.  As most of you are aware I’m not their biggest fan.  The only accomplishment that Starbucks can claim as their own was to increase the price for a simple cup of coffee from $.10 a cup to prices well north of $3.00 a cup.  Thanks a lot Starbucks!

My dislike of Starbucks is directly related to the area of the country from which it sprung.  I passed through the northwestern section of this country in the mid-sixties on my way overseas and then again upon my return.  I’ll never forgive or forget the shabby treatment most of us servicemen received from the left leaning liberal residents of the area.

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That being said let me tell you about my visit to Starbucks yesterday.  I was dragged out into the heat of the day to accompany my better-half running errands.  She stopped for a quick hair trimming and I was left sitting in the car sweating my ass off. It was either sweat and be miserable in the car or go into the nearby Starbucks and be unsweaty and just as miserable there.

I ordered my “Grande” coffee which for you normal people out there means a “Large”.  I guess it hurts less when you’re handed a “Grande” coffee and charged $3.50.  Seated next to me were a foursome of young ladies that appeared to be in their early or mid twenties.  I noticed them immediately because only one of them had blue hair and the total number of piercing for the table was less than ten.  Shocking!

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They were getting a little boisterous in their support for those Greenpeace heroes attempting to block a river in Oregon by hanging off a bridge and floating below in the river on their kayaks. Years ago I was an avid Greenpeace member but abandoned their organization when their goals and principles took a strong left leaning direction. These young ladies were fully in support of this blockade but didn’t see the obvious irony.  Greenpeace is blockading an oil ship from passing as they sit in the middle of the river in plastic kayaks. They must have forgotten that those cute little plastic boats are made from plastic, a petroleum bi-product. How ironic and hypocritical at the same time, a liberal specialty.

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“They should try this logo, it might increase their market share.’

I didn’t engage them during their group rant but I did laugh out loud a couple of times.  It’s good that they have a sympathetic company like Starbucks that supplies them a place to hang out and support all of the tremendously unimportant liberal causes . . . of course at a price,  $3.50 a Grande.

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07-29-2015 Journal–A Night in South Canada!   Leave a comment

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I’m only making a joke about South Canada.  My better-half and I spent our evening yesterday enjoying some of the crowds and nightlife in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  I call it south Canada because the majority of people I mingled with last night were speaking French.  Does anyone but me think that the French language is sexy?

I’ve had a fantasy since age eleven that had me moving to France, meeting a beautiful French women, and having her whisper sweet nothings in my ear forever.  Last night will probably be as close as I ever get to fulfilling that fantasy.  I sat next to a rather attractive women who spoke to the bartender in French to order a drink.  I have no idea what she ordered but that sexy voice speaking French really got me going.  Am I a bad man?  If I am, I don’t think I care that I am.

We started out in the Strike Zone Bar with drinks and a great baked haddock dinner. Then it was a nice walk to the Pier and the beach in the center of town where a concert was in progress. The Salvation Army was out in force, had erected a rather cool stage, and the group “Unbound” was rocking the house.

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After their final set we set off to the amusement park to throw away some of our hard earned money on those normally hokey carnival style games.  I dropped five bucks throwing ten stupid whiffle balls into holes trying to win a stuffed animal. Fortunately I didn’t win, thank God.  The last thing we need is more stuffed animals in our house.  I already feel like I’m living with Jim Henson as it is.

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Here are a few snaps I  took as we walked around.

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It’s a requirement of my better-half to make the obligatory trip to the arcade to rub elbows and everything else we have with the crowds of people and to play a few games of Skee Ball.  It allows her to reminisce for a few minutes about bringing her kids here when they were growing up.  Since they’ve grown up and gone I get to be their stand-in.

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Our last stop for the night was at DQ for ice cream and I went a little overboard. I’ve been dreaming about a big disgustingly unhealthy banana split since last summer. I violated every eating rule established by my healthcare experts and pigged out.  It was freaking orgasmic to say the least.

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And so ended another night in South Canada where fun was being had by all. We’ll be returning soon on a future weekend to spend the afternoon on the beach and the night cruising around and enjoying the beautiful weather.  I may be forced to sign up for a night school course to bone up on my French language skills. I need to know how to order a Jack Daniels and Pepsi like they do in Quebec.

07-27-2015 Journal–Dill Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Every summer about this time I donate one day of my time to the making of dill pickles.  I’ve loved dill pickles for most of my life and if I do say so myself, I make one helluva pickle.  Mine are a bit different from the store-bought variety since I pickle the cucumbers in a dill brine accompanied by a selection of sliced habanero’s and jalapeno’s.  The results have the best dill flavor I can supply with enough heat to make your head sweat. 

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My better-half isn’t a big fan of the dill flavor so I’m relegated to making one small batch each summer that will usually last me most of the winter.  I have a couple of other people in the area who are also big fans of dill and I make enough to keep them supplied as well.

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The process begins with a 48 hour bath for the cucumbers in lime water.  This will help keep the pickle slices crisp after the canning process has been completed.  While the cukes are soaking I slice up a sufficient amount of habaneros and jalapenos to add to the mix.  I was able to pick up a package of fresh dill yesterday and I’ll place a small sprig in the top of each jar. It’s mostly for decoration purposes but in addition to that I also add dried dill to the brine.

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After the cucumber  slicing, dicing, and jar  packing, the final product is covered with dill brine and capped. Then into a boiling water bath to help seal the jars and to precook the pickles.  Then it’s on to the cooling rack for a few hours and here’s the finished product.

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Thirteen pints of some truly hot and tasty dill pickles.  Good for any occasion or you can just sit and eat a jar while watching a movie.  If possible and if we have a good supply of cucumbers I may make a second batch of Kosher Dill pickles later this fall. It’s a totally different flavor of dill and I love it as much as these.

* * *  NEWS FLASH * * *

Today is a big day for us.  Today is our Independence Day from cable TV.  All of the companies equipment has been removed and will be shipped back in a few days.  The account was closed after the typical games these companies insist on playing.  They offered me a 50% reduction in my monthly rate if I would reconsider and stay with them.  I asked only one question. If they could afford to do that so easily now it must mean they’ve been overcharging me for years.  We agreed to disagree and that was that.  Good-bye, Good Luck, and get the hell out Dish Network.

* * * HOORAY FOR US * * *

07-25-2015 Journal– Is Betty Boop Really Catholic?   Leave a comment

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It’s a Saturday morning in Maine in July. It’s rained through the night and everything is wet and bright green as you’d might expect.  The downside is that it’s 6:00 am and my better-half has awakened me because of our planned trip to a nearby church festival. I was informed that it’s critically important that we arrive before 8:00 am before all of the good stuff is gone at the Flea Market.  Just as a point of information the “Flea Market” is nothing more than the basement of the church filled to the rafters with crap.  If I chose to be politically correct it could be called antique, vintage or  preowned but that would be stretching the meaning of those words to the limit. Imagine thousands and thousands of objects discarded by hundreds and hundreds of people scattered across forty of fifty tables, in side rooms, and even outside in tents. The great majority of the items are priced at a dollar or less and even then it’s a rip-off (in my humble opinion). I understand it’s money raised for a church charity so overcharging for crap is accepted and expected.

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It was so crowded with crazy people I could barely move around.  I felt pressured and obligated to buy something because this flea market was being run by a friend and former co-worker.  I dug down deep into my moth infested pocket where I found two one dollar bills.  I decided on a purchase which I would present to my better-half on her birthday.  I imagine every women in the world wants, needs, and desires a beautiful yet tacky Betty Boop toilet paper roller.

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After that purchase I fled the scene and returned to the fair for some greasy and unhealthy fair food.  There was plenty to go around.

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‘Salted, greasy, unhealthy, and almost delicious.’

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‘Hot sausage sandwich, peppers, onions, and a butt load of cholesterol.’ 

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‘Chicken anyone?’

With my belly full I made a bee line for the tent where the books were being sold.  I try to buy a sufficient number to carry me through the upcoming winter but the selection wasn’t as good as in previous years.  I purchased a few but disappointed there weren’t more.

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No real fair or festival fails to have the obligatory Disney presence with Mickey and Minnie posing for pictures with the kids.  I asked cute little Minnie to sit on my lap for a picture but she adamantly refused.  Nobody likes a prudish and fake mouse and she was  really mean too!

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My better-half made a number of trips to the car with her arms loaded with just about everything.  She bought food, toys, raffle tickets, and enough other crap to fill my trunk and backseat.  I was more than a little happy to see that church in my rear view mirror as we pulled away. 

Another three and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back.

07-23-2015 Journal – Love Me, Amy!   Leave a comment

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‘My New Workout Buddy’

I had a great workout yesterday. Normally I’d spend forty-five minutes on the treadmill and all the while watching some ridiculous television rerun.  I’ve been doing my workouts every other day for the last year and a half but as time goes by it becoming more of a boring task than a healthy approach to my life. On top of that I’m tired of hearing myself bitching and complaining about it endlessly. I’ve discovered over the years that I have the uncanny ability to annoy even myself and not just others.

With the upcoming cutting of my TV umbilical cord I’ve begun taking steps to prepare myself for what I’m sure will be a certain amount of withdrawal from my life-long television addiction.  It will difficult I’m sure but absolutely necessary.

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‘I’d judge that as a 9.5’

I’ve turned away from my exercising in front of the television to embracing an old love . . . music. I’ve never considered turning to music  on the treadmill because I’ve always loved music and hated mandatory exercise. Mixing the two seemed somehow wrong. I was forced to rethink my entire approach to these things because cable television is making me insane.

I’ve had an IPod full of thousands of songs for years but have used it sparingly.  I’ve always disliked wearing ear buds because the accompanying loss of hearing of my surroundings makes me wary and uncomfortable. Yesterday I jumped on the treadmill, put in my ear buds, and turned on my IPod. The silence of the world was replaced for the first twenty minutes by those politically incorrect Dixie Chicks who pissed me off years ago as they did a large segment of the country. I still love their music but detest their political naiveté.

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‘President Bush’s Fav’s’

The next twenty-five minutes were consumed by the late darling of the British Isles, Amy Winehouse.  I love her brash lyrics and low and sexy sound.  She made the remaining time fly by and I actually found myself totally entranced by her music and my memories of her. It was wonderful.

I guess I accomplished three things yesterday.  I kicked my TV habit, I had a kick-ass workout, and I began a new love affair with my IPod and Ms. Winehouse.

To quote one of Amy’s lyrics, "Where is my moral parallel?". My answer is the same as hers . . ."I have none."

FADE TO BLACK

07-21-2015 Journal–Strange, Weird & Creative!   Leave a comment

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All of us folks who love blogging seem to have that secret wish to be a published and recognized writer.  We read the classics as students and are told by our teachers what great and wonderful authors they were. What they failed to explain was that these same incredible writers had  private lives that were all too often a nightmare.

I’ve spent my life hanging out with creative types and have been amazed. I’ve found myself speechless at times after really getting to know them and seeing them for what they really are, just plain old, screwed up, and faulty human beings like everyone else.  Without their creativity they’d be an average Joe with all the normal problems and complaints.  Unfortunately that creativity gene has the bizarre ability to turn normal run-of-the-mill problems into absolute disasters.  Boozing, drug use, and all too often an early and tragic death.

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With that being said I thought I’d offer up some words of wisdom from some of  our more creative celebrities. This is my lame attempt to show them as just regular folks with a huge twist.  Let’s go . . . .

  • “Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion.”  Madonna
  • “I wish men had boobs because I like the feel of them. It’s so funny, when I record I sing with a hand over each of them. Maybe it’s a comfort thing.” Baby Spice
  • “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”  Oscar Wilde
  • “I say no to drugs. But they don’t listen.”  Marilyn Manson
  • “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.”  Woody Allen

In college I found myself living in a small community of artists of all types.  We remained separate from the rest of the school for a number of reasons. First we dressed a little differently, we saw things a little differently, and we didn’t give a damn what other people thought about us. I wish I would’ve had the good sense to write down a few of the more profound quotes they offered up as we sat around drinking wine and smoking a fat one.  We solved all the problems of the world but couldn’t remember any of the solutions the next morning. How ironic!  Keep reading . . .

  • “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”  Mel Brooks
  • “If I had a choice of having a woman in my arms or shooting a bad guy on a horse, I’d take the horse. It’s a lot more fun.” Kevin Costner
  • “It’s like when I buy a horse. I don’t want a thick neck and short legs.” Mickey Rourke, on his ideal woman
  • “My advice to you is get married. If you find as good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.”  Socrates
  • “Where the hell is Australia, anyway?”  Britney Spears

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I could go on but I think I’ve made my point.  Creative types normally spend a good part of their lives “out there” on the very edge of “the box” and occasionally fall all the way out.  I’ve been called creative for most of my life and it never seems to be all that complimentary.  It’s always “He’s very creative, but a little strange.”  For most of us that’s our badge of honor and we wear it proudly.

Long Live the Strange!

07-19-2015 Journal–Down With Cable TV!   Leave a comment

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It’s a gray day once again after having a few days of bright sunshine. The better-half is at work and the cat and I are doing as little as possible.  Over the last few days I’ve been spending time familiarizing myself with Netflix.  It was a little cumbersome at first but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I was told by a long time Netflix user the danger of “binge watching” and I thought she was kidding.  She wasn’t! I now can see just how that can happen because its happening to me already.

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As I’ve posted in the recent past, I’m preparing to finally disconnect myself from cable TV once and for all.  I’m sick of the continuously rising costs and the hundreds of channels of garbage programming I’m forced to pay for.

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I’m making the most of this Netflix free trial for the next month and the more I use it the better I’m liking it. I’ll be signing up for HULU Plus and their free trial next week to checkout the the TV shows they offer.  If I’m satisfied with HULU  I’ll be terminating my Dish cable service early in August. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait.

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I think I’ll be doing a little shopping tomorrow at Best Buy. I need one additional ROKU device to adapt my last TV to video streaming. The costs for these devices are minuscule compared to the amount I’ll be saving each month. I just love having extra money in my pocket instead of theirs.

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I should have no problem getting through the winter months this year with lots of books to read, a huge selection of TV programming, and more movies than I could ever watch.

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It’s time for me to return to my desktop computer, my laptop, iPad, smart phone, and TV because I can now video stream on all of them.  I’m deep into the storyline of the series, Marco Polo, with five episodes remaining. Then I can begin watching episodes of an old TV series, The Finder, one of my all-time favorites. It’s back and I’ve got it. 

Add to that a bottle of good Sangria, a bag of tortilla chips, and a quart of my salsa and I’m in heaven.  I’ll also be saving $645.00 in the first year that will pay for my annual car insurance, a year’s supply of cat food, and the occasional bottle of brandy. It can’t get much better than that.

07-17-2015 Journal–Flowers, Flowers & More!   Leave a comment

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I just finished doing a lot of yard work and I’m exhausted.  With all of the rain we’ve been having the grass is growing faster than I can keep up. The compost pile is already four feet high and It’s only mid-July. It’ll be like Mt. Everest come October.

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I thought I’d post a few new photo’s of our flowers around the garden and house. The colors are fantastic and as some flowers fade many others are just coming into bloom. The colors are nice to look at but the smells are incredible.

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As you can see we have a few rather large zucchini’s already  to pick and within the week I’ll be collecting a basket full of jalapeños and hot banana peppers.  They should make some tasty and screaming hot jalapeño poppers in a few weeks.

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My friendly skunk has been blocked from the garden by the new fence but continues hanging around.  I’ve been finding holes in the yard where he’s been digging for grubs.  It may be time for one more night of surveillance with my new rifle.  This guy has outlived his usefulness and I may have to lay some serious violence on him.  He’s slowly morphing from a friendly night visitor to a varmint.  Unfortunately for him varmints have a very short life span here.

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This will be a shorter post than normal because the better-half and I have been invited to dinner this evening. Good food, good drink, and two grand kids to chase around for a while.  That has the makings of a great night.

Since I’m not allowed to leave the house until I’m presentable and smell good, I need to get busy. No matter what there are always rules to be followed or ignored. Such is life.

07-15-2015 Journal–A Maine Chili Day!   1 comment

Every summer I set aside a few special days for restocking the shelves for winter. One of those days is spent making a large batch of salsa and the another is for for making of a huge batch of chili.  The salsa is canned for storage while the chili is normally frozen. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing better than enjoying a steaming hot bowl of spicy chili with a bit of cheddar cheese melted on top while watching a Maine snowstorm through the kitchen window.

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My salsa day was completed last week and the finished product is on the shelf.  I decided this year to break with tradition and to make a different style of meatless chili, one that can be canned instead of frozen. I love experimenting and going-outside-the-box whenever possible and today’s the day.

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This chili is made from a number of off-the-shelf ingredients as well as fresh peppers from the garden.  For the first time in my life I’ll be making a non-meat chili using a Vegan approved meat substitute made from soy. I’ve always loved other soy products and I’m long overdue trying it in my chili.  This ingredient comes freeze dried and requires rehydrating in a vegetable broth before use. All preparations from that point on are identical as when using ground beef. I was more than a bit surprised when the soy looked and felt exactly like regular browned ground beef.

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I spent time yesterday cleaning and dicing jalapeño and Fresno peppers which will supply some of the heat needed for this chili.  Then I diced a few large white and red onions for that special flavor they provide.  Add to that a quantity of sweet bell peppers of assorted colors and you’re well on your way to a beautiful dish.

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Canning the chili this time around is new.  Normally to can chili containing meat you need a pressure canner.  By removing the meat, replacing it with soy, and increasing the acid level, I can now can the chili instead of freezing it.  I’ve always disliked freezing chili because it changes both the texture and taste. I’m hoping this experiment will keep the chili as close to the way it was originally prepared as possible.

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I’m also trying something new for this batch. Normally you seal the jar with a metal lid which is then held in place by a metal band.  Those bands are notorious for corroding and becoming difficult to remove. This year I’m sealing them exactly that way but just after the lids “click” to indicate a good seal, I’m removing the metal bands and covering the lid with a white plastic screw cap. This will keep the seal intact and keep the lid and top of the jar much cleaner during storage.

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The final result is fifteen and half quarts of a flavorful, hot, and spicy Black Bean & Corn chili. My mouth is already watering.

7-13-2015 Journal–A Lazy Maine Day!   Leave a comment

It’s another week of our normal screwy summer weather to deal with.  We went from wearing hoodies and sweatpants on the Fourth of July to a period of sweltering heat and humidity.  There never seems to be any middle ground with the weather in Maine.  Just once I’d love to see a week with seventy degree weather with low humidity.

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The better-half was scheduled to have one of those rare weekends where she  didn’t have to work. We always try to spend her days off doing something together but with her working, the grand children, and other obligations, it’s not as easy as it once was. Since we really enjoy our road trips we decided to go exploring for the day.  The best way to start any day-off on any given summer Saturday is at the beach.

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One of our favorite places is a small and cozy little restaurant in Old Orchard Beach located about fifty yards from the water.  It’s normally crowded with tourists and beach folk which makes people watching a lot of fun.  The meals are always good but not great. The coffee is always great but not excellent. The waitresses are unusual with a hottie or two thrown in for good measure. It helps to have some one nice to look at when your eating their mediocre food.

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We then made our way inland towards Naples, Maine which sits along the shore of Sebago Lake. It was a beautiful day and the place was packed with tourists. It was too crowded for our liking so we continued on to the small town of Bridgeton, Maine.  This is more like a village, off the beaten path, loaded with many small antique shops, and art galleries.  The people are always friendly, the prices are always reasonable, and the general store is outrageous.

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We both made a few ridiculous purchases and hopped from place to place where the air conditioners were working.  It was one of those rare Maine days when the temperatures remained above ninety for most of the day and the sun was brutal.

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We left Bridgton and decided to get lost for a while.  With all of the lakes in this area it’s easy to lose your sense of direction as the roads wind in and around them. We became lost enough where I felt it necessary to plug in the GPS unit to help us find our way home. How did we ever survive all those years without GPS? After another hour we finally arrived home sweaty and tired.  The house was unbearably hot requiring us to turn on every ceiling fan in the place.  It was like sitting on the runway at a airport.  It cooled the house enough to make it bearable and we settled in for the night. Sleeping was a chore but we were tired enough to ignore the heat.

We  always have a fun day together when we have enough time to clear our heads from the normal every day rat-race. I’m looking forward to the next one already.