A Look Inside the Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro

Welcome!  Today, I’m going to try something new.  Since I have a weird obsession with food, I was thinking that I would review some of the places I’ve eaten.  On top of the usual food and service nitpicking, I’m going to throw in an accessibility rating.

First off, let me explain my overall rating system.  You know when you bite into something and you just go “Mmmmm…”  Well, that’s my system.

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

The first restaurant I want to talk about is one that I found in Freeport, ME while there in January.  It’s called the Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro.

Host Stand (from their website)

Now, unfortunately I’m the type of person who eats her food, rather than taking pictures of it, so I don’t have many visuals.  Any that I do have are pulled from their website (link above).

First and foremost, this restaurant gets major credit for being accessible in a town where accessibility is highly questionable.  In other words, my dad and I tried to go to numerous places in Freeport only to discover that many didn’t even have ramps.  Back to Tuscan Bistro’s accessibility.  It has the whole two doorways entry, but there was plenty of room for me to go in, and move to the side so someone could open the next door.  Luckily, both times we went (yeah, we went twice in 10 days), we had friends with us, so it wasn’t an issue.  The tables were a little high, but nothing out of the normal range.

Next, is the service.  Both times, the waitresses interacted with me, so they get bonus points.  It’s not unoften that I get ignored by waiters and waitresses (it’s something about the whole cripple thing, I guess), so when they treat me like a human, they’re basically golden.  That being said, service was a little slow, which I’m okay with.  I enjoy having time to digest between servings.  If you want fast, let them know.

The food!  Both times, we ordered the Salumi Misto to start.  Basically, it’s a meat platter (a surprising find in the health conscious state).  A delicious plate of meat.  For entrees, the first time I got the Four Cheese Ravioli (no meat, but absolutely wonderful for cheese-lovers like me) and the second one was the Bolognese (it’s almost as good as Dad’s ragù. Almost).


 As far as dessert goes, I remember it was good, but I don’t really remember what we got.  In other words, it was less than memorable.  I know I wasn’t disappointed at the time, but I would definitely have preferred to be as impressed with dessert as the rest of the meal.

Lastly, the price.  It wasn’t the cheapest meal, but for what we got, it was a decent price.

My overall rating!

My Stonecoast Experience (Part 2)

As I’ve mentioned, my Dad and I made our last trek to Maine in January, where I graduated from Stonecoast.  I’ve spent the last few weeks sorting through my feelings about it all.  I haven’t even forced myself to look through all of the pictures and videos we took, because that would mean saying goodbye.  I won’t kid myself by saying things like “we’ll keep in touch” or “I’ll see them again,” because the truth of the matter is that I’ll probably never see or interact with 99% of these people again outside of Facebook or email.  But that’s okay.

In all honesty, I’ve never really had many “real life” friends, so the switch to maintaining cyber friendships with these people, my Stonecoast family, isn’t a big leap for me.  However, many of them are less active online than I am, so it’s still a bittersweet adjustment.  I won’t get to see everyone twice a year.  Won’t get to catch up with those I don’t see much online.  And, possibly the most depressing thing of all, I won’t get to be in Maine.

South Freeport (Docks by Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Co.)

Granted, I’m not entirely sorry I missed the grand snowfall, and it’s not the most handicap friendly of the states, but!  It’s beautiful, and the people are super friendly.  After each trip, when we get home, I always miss Maine more than I ever missed Texas.

In fact, one of my fellow Stonecoasters once asked me what I missed about Texas.  I told her I missed my dog.  Just my dog.  That was a half-truth.  I missed Mexican Coca-Cola.  I missed having easy access to decent Mexican food, or at least Tex-Mex.  I missed BBQ (don’t get me wrong, Maine has something it calls BBQ, but it ain’t the good stuff).   I missed 99.5% of public places having wheelchair entrances.  It was little things like that that I found I missed.

Chewy! (My dog)

It’s all thanks to Stonecoast that I got to experience these things.  Friendship outside of the computer.  Travel.  Finding a home away from home.  Figuring out what I would miss about my current home.  It was all part of my crazy new experience.  I’m thankful for it all.

Yes, I will miss Maine with its moose heads (see below), its wonderful people, and its crazy weather, but it’s time to move onwards and upwards.  It’s time for me to focus on my writing and where I want to go in life and how to get there.  Who knows, maybe when I’m a rich and famous author (a girl can dream big, can’t she?), I’ll find my way back to that home away from home.  Maybe by then, it’ll just be home.

Please don’t fall on me, Mr. Moose. (At the Broad Arrow Tavern in the Harraseeket Inn)

That’s all for today.  Check in next week for something completely different!

The Speech of Doom

First, a little background.  At Stonecoast’s commencement ceremony, the faculty elects a student speaker from each genre (pop fic, lit fic, poetry, and CNF).  Apparently, they decided that I should represent popular fiction.  This meant that I had to give a speech.  On stage.  In front of everybody.  Yeah, not my idea of a good time.  But, it went over pretty well, and people have asked me for copies or to post it on-line.  So, here it is, notes to myself and all.

Giving the Speech of Doom. Courtesy of Joseph Carro.

Speech of Doom

Thank you, Dean Tuchinsky. Thank you, Justin Tussing and Matt Jones. Faculty, fellow students, thank you. And a very special thank you to Robin Talbot. She is the heart of Stonecoast, and she keeps our dysfunctional little family functioning. So, next time you see her, give her a hug and tell her thank you.

*pause, deep breath*

Hello. My name is Shawna, and I, like most of you, am a compulsive liar (also known as a writer). Yes, that includes the CNF folks as well. We all embellish the truth and hide things inside pretty little metaphors, some of us just include more fairies and dragons and zombies than others.

In his dedication of It, Stephen King writes to his children, “Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.” He’s right. The magic is there, waiting to be found, if only you’re willing to search for it. We all write lies and hope some universal truth is hidden inside, but what about the magic? Now, I know my fellow pop fiction writers are sitting there thinking “we write about magic every day.” But there’s a difference between writing about spells or wands or potions, and knowing that real magic exists.

In May of 2012, I received my B.A. in English. I had switched away from psychology, from my plan, and majored in English. What the hell was I supposed to do with my life? That was when my adviser planted the seed that would lead me to my own magical path. He introduced me to low-residency MFAs.

I fully admit I had no intention of ending up at Stonecoast, but then Robin called. She made me feel wanted, like I could actually be a part of this family, because that’s what we are. A family. In other words, she uncorked the magic bottled up inside me and it started trickling over the edge. This first encounter with Stonecoast was followed by approximately 30 e-mails and phone calls from faculty and students (now, realize that this was over a period of maybe two weeks). Needless to say, I was a little (okay a lot) creeped out. It was like some cult was out to get me to join. The funny thing is, I was entirely okay with that. If you know my writing, you know I’m no stranger to the creepy and disturbing, so their tactics worked. I became part of this weird cult/family/tribe known as Stonecoast. And yes, I have heard it described as all of those things.

The point is, Stonecoast took someone whose mantra had always been “get in, get the degree, and get out” and turned her into someone who desperately searched for ways to extend her time here. Granted, I never found a way to stay and two years was much too short (just ask any one of us), but if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. I found friends here, I found myself among the voices in my head, but most of all, I found that magic is real. Stonecoast is my Hogwarts. A sentiment shared by many of us.

So, this is for everyone here, but especially my fellow graduates: find your magic. If you haven’t found it yet, trust me when I say you will. When it hits you, because it will be that metaphorical ton of bricks, don’t ignore it. As you venture back out into that big, scary world, be open to the magic it offers. And remember, we each carry a tiny satchel of never-ending seeds. Do your best to plant those in everyone you meet, so that they can find their magic, too.

Thank you.

Talking to the Voices

I have returned!  I was away most of January, so that I could participate in my final residency at the Stonecoast MFA program.  I graduated with many mixed feelings, which I will talk about at a later date.

I actually came away from residency with many ideas for this blog o’ mine, which I will mention at the end, but first, I want to get into today’s topic.  The voices in my head!

A lot of people ask me how I come up with my characters, but the truth is, I don’t really know.  They almost always start as a nagging voice in my head (at least the main characters do).  It’s going to sound crazy, but I talk to these voices and most of them won’t go away until I write their stories.  I talk with them for many reasons, not just to learn their stories, but to learn their voices.  Their likes and dislikes.  What kind of person they are.

I fully admit that this can be both a blessing and a curse.  Sometimes, I get attached to certain voices and put off writing their stories, because I don’t want them to disappear.  I’ve only really mourned the loss of a couple of voices, but it’s still a sad process.  On the other hand, it makes for some unique characters.  I have less trouble getting into the voice when I’m writing.

Do you talk to the voices in your head?  If not, I certainly encourage it.  Yes, we might come off as a bit eccentric, but what writer isn’t?

I think I’ll leave it at that for today.  Before I sign off completely, I want to talk about “what’s next.”

1.  I’m seriously considering moving my blog to a different platform (most likely WordPress).  Would anyone have any objections to that?  I know I don’t have many readers, so I feel like now would be the optimal time for such a switch.

2.  This will soon be a weekly blog!  Every Wednesday, I will be posting, starting on February 11th.  People have requested that I post my graduation speech, so that’s coming up next week.

3.  I’m hoping to form a more cohesive blog, so forgive me as I dabble in different topics until I find the one for me.

That is all.  If no one has argued otherwise by February 11th, I will see you on WordPress!