Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where The Locals Go

Nubble Light house, the same one Sarah and I visited
I work with some pretty awesome people. Kind, generous, and filled with a love of New England. Now that I extended my contract, my co-workers are excited to show me some of their favorite spots. Today's adventures involved seeing an area I already thought I "saw." York, Maine. Except this time, I was seeing it from a local's perspective.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a trip to a store called Stonewall Kitchen. I ventured to the outlet store with my friend Laura. She is a big fan of their products as well and a big foodie like me. We enjoyed a leisurely car ride through the back country of Maine. The outlet store is more dangerous than the original Stonewall Kitchen. Filled with "oops" products that made it into the wrong jar or were overstocked. After an hour in the store browsing, I was afraid to approach the register for fear of my bank account. Turns out, I was able to buy twice the product for half the price! Win!

With our bags tucked in the trunk, we went for lunch at a quirky restaurant called When Pigs Fly. Specializing in wood-fired pizzas and amazing homemade bread, the smell permeated the parking lot and I knew right away it was going to be great. We split a pizza and headed next door to the bakery. It was filled to the brim with huge loaves of bread. Again, the smell was out of this world. I bought a couple of loaves to try and quietly mourned my waistline.

After a quick pit stop at Laura's house to grab my camera, we went to a local treasure: the cliff walk. Situated on the cusp of the ocean, this walking/hiking trail is a well kept secret by the residents of York. Breathtaking views of the ocean and craggy rocks perfect for sitting, this trail quickly became one of my new favorite spots. I imagined beautiful sunrises and quiet moments of reflection in my future. The path was lined with sea roses, daffodils, and lilacs.

While we walked, Laura and I discussed work, politics, life, architecture, relationships, and just about every other topic it seemed. She was appreciative of my love of nature and patiently waited for me to take my pictures. She was happy to show me her favorite parts of York. Another beautiful, sunny, New England day filled with amazing food, beautiful scenery, and great conversation. Can't ask for much more than that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Pool Strikes Again

My day was filled with big egos, entitled attitudes, and general douchiness. Yes, that is now a word. Today was one of those days. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, a day where you can only say "WTF??!!" so many times before you just start drinking. Now, not being a big drinker, I decided to forgo the beer and resolve my bad day with a good workout and surprisingly, with a great conversation.

I worked the early shift today so I headed to the gym to wait until my aqua aerobics class started in the lap pool. With about 45 minutes to kill, I decided to take a dip in the warm pool and try to wipe the inevitable scowl off my face. There was an older gentleman and an older woman chatting on one end of the small pool. 

The woman was adorable. A former New Yorker, I swear she barely took a breath during our whole conversation! She lived in Florida for several years and had recently had a knee replacement. She and the gentleman were conversing back and forth, at a rapid pace, about exercise and injuries. In the blink of an eye, they pulled me into the conversation.

The gentleman was the kind of guy we don't come across in Wisconsin much. Also former New Yorker he reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield, he spoke with a heavy Bostonian accent and said "God Forbid" about everything. He asked me so many questions I swore he wanted to know my life history. Innocently inquisitive, I would say, rather than creepy old guy in a pool. I found out he had been a funeral director in Fond Du Lac and spoke fluent Yiddish. He appreciated my Wisconsin accent and my Polish background.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they are just able to pull information out of you without you even realizing you've given it up? Well, by the time I left the pool to start my aerobics class, they both thought it was great I was a travel nurse, argued about whether I should get married, and made attempts to give me advice. When the woman suggested I live with a man before I get married, the man rolled his eyes, raised his hand up and said, "God Forbid!" The gentleman said, "You's a beautiful girl! I mean, look at that face! You even have all your teeth! Tell me what you want and I'll find you a man to marry!" All the while, the woman never stopped talking, encouraging me to see the world while I'm young.  The best way to describe the conversation is to picture George from Seinfeld. Remember him? Now picture his parents in a warm pool. Ha!

As it turned out, they were not married, as I had suspected. They didn't even know each other. Sure argued like a married couple!

They were interesting. They were entertaining. They were lovely.

I left the pool with a smile on my face.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

After a bout of laryngitis this week, I wanted to keep it low-key this weekend. This, naturally, led me to the coast on a sunny, 70 degree day to soak up the sun on the beach.

Driving on the highway that closely hugs the shore is a surreal experience at times. With the windows rolled down, awesome tunes on the radio, and the great expanse of the ocean before me, I couldn't have a care in the world. It is in these moments that this adventure becomes so real; that the distance between my old life and my new life is put into perspective.

The beaches were packed with surfers, sand castle builders, and kite fliers. I have learned from experience it is wise to go north to Maine to avoid the crowds. North I went, stopping at York Beach to sit on the rocks and watch the waves crash in.

After dipping my feet in the cool salt water and walking the beach a bit, I kept going north to the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine. With over 50 miles of coastline and about 9,100 acres of woods and marshland, the area is named for the world-renowned marine biologist and environmentalist who happens to be one of my heroes. Known by most for her pivotal book Silent Spring, Carson argued the biological implications on humans of pesticide use in the post World War II ear. A victim to cancer herself, Carson died in 1964. This refuge, which served as a source of inspiration in her younger years, was renamed in her honor in 1969.

The one mile path led me through a small portion of the refuge and had overlook areas with gaping views of the marshland. It struck me about halfway through what an amazing place it truly is. I was submersed in the woods but all the while I could hear the ocean in the distance. How many places can you go and watch a wild turkey strut through the woods and listen to waves crashing onto the shore at the same time?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give me some attitude!

Warning: this post is filled with a few random things. Some idle chat, a few videos, but valuable information at the end, so bear with me!

On Saturday, after my waterfalling, I went to the mall in Salem, NH to pick up a few things. I stopped in the Bare Minerals store to stock up on some makeup while taking advantage of no sales tax in New Hampshire! The lady behind the counter asked to do my eyeshadow, and I willingly obliged. What girl doesn't like a little pampering? She and I naturally began chatting and she made the observation that I was not from the area. Automatically assuming my accent was the giveaway, I told her she was indeed correct. She admitted my accent was one indicator, but my behavior was another. Surprised, I asked her to indulge me. She said people in New England have a certain attitude. They are slow to warm up to strangers, unlikely to engage in small talk, and have a certain harshness about them. I told her I truly hadn't noticed such behavior. In fact, my experience thus far had been positive and similar to that of what I would experience in the Midwest. After finding out I was from the Midwest, it was like a light bulb went on above her head. She suddenly exclaimed that she LOVED people from the Midwest because we are genuine, down-to-earth, calm, and friendly. I've heard these attributes before and it be deemed "Midwestern hospitality." She appreciated our welcoming nature and warned me to be on the look out for the New England "attitude."

Sunday, I saw it. On several occasions. I won't bore you all with the details of said encounters, but lets just say they were less than hospitable. At the end of the day, I was so mentally exhausted that I was craving home. I wanted something, anything to quench my thirst for a little of the Wisconsin life. I found it. It was delicious.
I also wanted to post two videos I forgot to include in my last post of the waterfalls I visited this weekend.

Garwin Falls, Wilton, NH (40ft drop)

Tucker Brook Falls, Milford, NH (10ft drop)

Last but not least! As promised last week, I am announcing my plans for my next assignment (for those who don't already know!). I have been asked to extend my contract here in New Hampshire and have agreed. The contract negotiations are still being finalized, but I will likely be here through the end of June. I am planning to visit home in early May. This last 11 weeks (yes, it has been that long) has gone by really fast and I want to thank everyone for their support! I will continue to post videos/pictures/idle chat on here as long as someone wants to read it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Waterfall of the Week: Wilton, NH

The idea this weekend was to brave the city of Portland, but without a solid plan in mind, I didn't want to go and not make the most of the trip. So, when all else fails, I go hiking! With a list of waterfalls in the area I've been steadily checking off, I made my way over to Wilton, NH to take in two nearby waterfalls.

Like most waterfalls in New Hampshire, they were hidden on unmarked trails off back roads in the countryside. The first set of falls was called Garwin Falls. A dirt path led me to the first set of the falls and, while beautiful, they were not the real attraction. About a quarter mile down the path I heard the rushing water spilling over the craggy rocks.

Now, while the waterfalls was amazing, I've posted several pictures of waterfalls over the course of my time here and wouldn't indulge you if there wasn't something more to the story. While setting up my tripod for the shot, I noticed a young man, maybe 14 or 15 years old, perched on top of one of the cliffs. He was what appeared to be his father and brother, taking in the sights like me. It was what he was wearing that caught my attention. It was a Clay Matthews jersey. Yes, another random Packer fan in the middle of the New England woods. I naturally struck up a conversation with the young man out of curiosity and as it turns out he was from Vermont and thought meeting someone from Wisconsin was pretty cool. We talked about the Packers for a bit, I took my photos, and moved on.

Next, I headed about 10 miles East to the neighboring town of Milford in search of the Tucker Brook Town Forest. Nestled inside a 258 acre preserve were the Tucker Brook Falls. Strewn across the many trails the wind through the woods are 10,000 year old glacial erratics--boulders believed to be left from retreating glaciers of the last ice age. This made navigation more challenging. Usually I can find my way back out of the woods with my photographic memory and little common sense. However, the path to find the falls involved several turns and trail changes, so needed to write down instructions to ensure I could make my way back to my car!  I reached the falls after about 30 minutes of easy hiking. Peaceful, secluded, and beautiful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter and Cottage Cheese Rolls

Easter has never been a really big holiday in my family, despite our Catholic heritage. My mom is usually busy with tax season and I was away at school most years. There is one tradition which my mom and I have upheld for several years, no matter how far apart we were: making cottage cheese rolls. Don't knock em' till you've tried em', ask my friend Dee! When I spoke with my mom earlier in the week she made sure to ask if I had bought my cottage cheese. Ha! Old habits die hard I guess!

Because I lived away from my family, I usually spent Easter with friends. This year was no different. Several of my new co-workers were kind enough to invite me to Easter with their families. I ended up spending the day with one of the per diem radiation therapists who, to be honest, I didn't know all that well. By the end of the day it was like we were old friends. Laughing and poking fun at the Twilight movies, discussing our shared interest of photography, and dishing on our past careers and lives. It was a laughter filled, joyous day, what Easter should be. The cottage cheese rolls came along and were a hit as they usually are. Here's your guide to making these scrumptious treats!

Mix together the night before: 2 cups fresh small curd cottage cheese, 1 cup butter softened, 2 cups flour, and a pinch of salt. Mix until the dough is elastic, roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. The next morning:

Divide dough into quarters.

Roll out one quarter of dough into a circle. I neglected to bring a rolling pin along, so a Pellegrino bottle subbed in.

Once rolled into an even circle (yeah, yeah, mine isn't so even. What do you want from me, I'm using a bottle?), cut into triangles.

Roll each triangle onto itself to make a crescent roll.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes
In the meantime, mix the icing. Powdered sugar, water/milk, and a touch of vanilla.

Bake until the tops are just golden, don't over bake! 

Frost while still warm, and devour!!!

Hope everyone enjoyed their Easter!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


A virus hit my computer hard and fast on Saturday. Where it came from I don't know, but I'm back up and running! Sorry for the delay in posting!

Saturday was once again filled with hiking and hunting for waterfalls. This time I headed to the West side of New Hampshire, about 2 hours from my home base. It was on this trip that I found two waterfalls tucked away on trails stemming from gravel back roads. As I was driving down the first road, the image that crossed my mind was Deliverance. Now, that is no reflection on the people, simply the terrain. Very desolate, with steep cliffs and deep valleys. I trekked on a relatively easy trail to find the first series of waterfalls called Purgatory Falls. Nestled in a 100 foot ravine, the stream separates the two small towns of Mont Vernon and Lyndenborough. Initially I followed the trail toward the lower falls, but realized that a path had been made down to the base of the falls. Yes, down 100 feet into the ravine. It was a safe, but steep decent. But, for my trouble I was rewarded with an amazing eye level view of the falls and a great place to eat a quick lunch.

About another hour West led me to the town of Keene. The drive there was filled with vista views of the lower White Mountains and sparkling lakes. Located in a 26 acre preserve was Beaver Brook Falls. Set at the bottom of a steep gorge with cliffs rising 200 feet on either side, the brook ran alongside an abandoned highway. This was a stark contrast to my first hike. As I walked up the pavement of the old highway, I saw the brook slowly babbling downstream. When I reached the falls, it was hidden behind some trees. As dusk began to creep up on me, I headed back home.
A peaceful day of hiking in the woods, searching out waterfalls. That's a pretty good Saturday.

Later this week I will have an update on my next assignment! Stay tuned!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Polish runs deep

Yeah. I love my mom to death, but based on the Easter care package she sent me, she is definitely Polish.

When I asked her about it, she said, "What? I needed to balance it out!"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slacking, I know

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately. But my weekend exploits have consisted mostly of shopping and other mundane tasks. Nothing blog-worthy. I plan to redeem myself this weekend with a possible trip to Portland and some hiking.

Today was a filled with random encounters, which I thought I would share. First, I was standing in line at the post office, mailing a package to my parents and brother back in Clintonville (the home of the mysterious "booming" recently. If you don't know about it, click here). The post man asked me, after looking at the address, "Wait, is that the place?" I assumed he had seen the reports on the news about the earthquake, and jokingly responded that it was and I hoped it would still be standing when the package arrived! He said it was kind of a weird place for an earthquake, and I commented that earthquakes are one of the few natural phenomenon we don't get in Wisconsin. The lady behind me in line piped in, asking me where I was from. As it turned out, she grew up near Milwaukee. Small world, I know.

The nurse I work with was recently given a scholarship for her bachelor's degree. The hospital newsletter showed a picture of her, the other scholarship recipients, and nursing administration. I recognized a familiar face in the group. Her name is Fran and we take the same water aerobics class. At class tonight, I asked her if that was indeed her in the photo. It was and as it turns out, she is the executive of nursing at the hospital. She is also a traveler. She acts mainly as a consultant, going from hospital to hospital evaluating the nursing structure of the institution. We chatted for a bit tonight and she offered to have lunch one day so I could pick her brain. With 30 years of being a nursing administrator under her belt, I figured she has a wealth of knowledge I could learn from.

On a separate, but somewhat related note, I met another amazing lady at my aqua aerobics class. She is originally from England but lives in the U.S. with her husband. They are both school teachers. From what I gathered, she has lived a very interesting life. Amazingly, she was more taken with my current lifestyle. Her sister is a nurse in England and considering coming to the U.S. to travel nurse. In this instance, she was more interested in picking my brain!

This was one of the things that excited me about traveling: meeting new and interesting people. Mission accomplished.