Gabe Gregoire

Gabe Gregoire

The Solution to Spring Fever

If teacher’s reports are worth anything (and they are), their young students are already absent from the classroom, gone in their minds to summer vacation as soon as the snow was gone. Many readers have calendars on their refrigerators, x-ing off days one by one until the big hoorah. Rambunctiousness is the order of the day. Fidgeting. Bickering. Resisting. One friend of The Phoenix family had to order lumber for a treehouse in exchange for their son’s continued attendance at the school he walks to, after he was discovered spending the entire day in the woods, lean-to and all. It’s like these kids were raised in a barn!


So it’s only fitting to bring them to a place where they can explore one, and its surroundings, at the Spring Festival at Wolfe’s Neck Farm (184 Burnett Rd., Freeport), on Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Let the kids blow off steam with farm-themed activities, great food, hay wagon rides, face painting, crafts and demonstrations. Admission is $8 per person, $4 for Wolfe’s Neck members, ages 3 and under (and teachers!) free.


To give you some idea of what an impressive family festival this is, here are some of the things that will be going on, at Wolfe’s Neck’s 626 oceanside acres: First, children can visit with some of the animals they’ve been acting like, including sheep, goats, cows and calves, and more. Then, let them participate in building a fairy house, try making wool rag rugs, run around the gardens and trails, and romp in the hay pile. And that’s just the beginning. Several food trucks will be at the festival, including Wicked Good, Rollin’ Fatties, and Fishin’ Ships. Live music? No problem. They’ve got Martin Swinger, Steamboat Gypsy, and Matt Loosigian. And listen to a few of the demonstrations: Pasture-raised Sheep, Making Your Own Butter, Primitive Skills, Hive Observations, the list goes on. To be sure, your day will be full, and your kids (the youngest ones, at least) will fall asleep in the car on the way home. See you there!


More information:

  • Published in Kids

Your Cat's Distant Relatives

Has a stray cat ever followed you home? If so, you know how the incident flatters you and makes you wonder why the animal chose you over others. You feel obliged, if not to take it in, then at least to see that a neighbor or a shelter does. If you feed the feline, you may have to resort to a can of tuna if you don’t already have cats, and if you do, it can be a delicate situation to introduce them to each other. Complicated. And it makes you think about how many other cats and kittens out there are wanderers, and what will become of all of them, even if you are able to take this one new friend out of that desperate situation.


Now, if you lived in Istanbul, Turkey, you would probably interact with many stray cats on a daily basis, as there are hundreds of thousands of them roaming the city, each with a personality of its own. That’s the subject of the documentary Kedi, directed by Ceyda Torun, playing at Frontier (14 Maine St., Brunswick) this weekend. Tickets are inexpensive, going for $8, $7 for students and seniors.


Both cat lovers and curious film fans say they love Kedi. The film has earned a 97% positive rating on And movie critics from major outlets seem quite fond of the documentary as well. Glenn Kenny of the New York Times says, “The movie is replete with ingeniously constructed mini-narratives, including a turf war. The mesmerizing score by Kira Fontana, interspersed with well-chosen Turkish pop, is a real asset.” The mini-narratives he refers to range from heartwarming to hilarious to strange. One tabby is so particular that she never enters the restaurant where she can be found each day, though welcome, but frantically signals by jumping and scratching when she needs something edible. The neat ‘cat’s eye view’ camera follows her mad dash through crowds and obstacles to where she has hidden a litter of mewling kittens, now the recipients of the tasty treat. This is just one of many glimpses into unique feline life dramas.


Another reviewer, Peter Keough of the Boston Globe (and former Phoenix contributor), sums up the collective attitude of the Istanbul feral cats thusly: “The animals seem untroubled by humane societies who want to find them homes or neuter them, and enjoy a symbiotic relationship with people, being fed, coddled, and petted by those who see in cats an almost mystical presence.” Most Phoenix readers who have turned to this column will be familiar with that mystery behind feline eyes. Celebrate it by going to see Kedi.


Frontier: or 207-725-5222.

  • Published in Pets

Time for a New Sport?

Everybody’s had a windfall at some time or another in their adult lives. Did you ever decide to take that change burning a hole in your pocket and invest in the equipment to begin playing a new sport? Did that gear end up taking up space in the back of your closet for months or even years, until you finally bit the bullet and went to unload it at Play It Again? There’s a way to avoid that kind of ignominious loss: make sure you try the sport in question (more than once, if possible) before you buy your own equipment. For example, at one of these two events this week in town:


Sea kayaking, in addition to bringing the peace that comes with being on the water, is a great way to condition your upper body and improve coordination and equilibrium. If you’re weighing purchasing the craft, the car rack and the other accoutrements, consider taking part in Portland Paddle’s Fort Gorges Sea Kayak Tour, launching at the East End Beach (Eastern Prom) on Sunday, May 28 at 9:30 a.m. The price is $52.00, $42.00 for kids 10-16. The default craft is a tandem kayak, so if you prefer a solo, let organizers know in advance at 207-370-9730. True beginners might want to stick with the two-person kayak, as those are more stable, more spacious and generally easier to use. The bonus of this trip is that once you get to Fort Gorges in Casco Bay (the chunky little granite one you can see on a tiny island from points along the shore in Portland), a knowledgeable guide will discuss the fort’s Civil War beginnings and history and answer questions. Bring a lunch if you want to picnic at the fort. Go to to register.


If you’d rather stay on solid ground, and not only that, stake out a piece of that ground and defend it from enemy attack, don’t worry, we’re not recommending a new career in the armed services. On the contrary, the sport in question is Dagohir, a Tolkien-inspired combination of live-action role playing and medieval war reenactment (see our previous piece about it at ). The local Dagohir chapter is holding a practice, with foam weapons available for use by walk-on participants, at Deering Oaks Park (Park St), on Monday, May 29 at 2 p.m. If you’ve never felt the catharsis that comes from defeating an opponent in a combat sport, this might be one you want to try. Admission and participation are free  More information is available at . It’s a great time, and a good time to sample it before you spend on equipment. We’re not sure what Play It Again Sports’ policy is on battleaxes.

  • Published in Sports

The Age-Old Aphorism

Let’s talk about healthy kids. Assuming they’re generally happy internally (that is, emotionally) there still remains the issue of encouraging them to learn maintenance skills for the body. That means, as we’ve all heard millions of times, diet and exercise. Good food at a healthy level of intake, and plenty of all kinds of moving around, will build a strong young person. So, if we take nourishment and activity as separate points for the time being, the Phoenix has learned of the following two family events to address each area, while having an awesome time:


Diet: Your youngster(s) may already be cognizant of the quality and types of food they eat and how it affects them. Take those curious bottomless pits to the 13th Annual Veg Fest: Exploring Vegan Living, at the East End Community School (195 North St.) on Saturday, June 3 at 11 a.m. Admission and all events are free. Your family can sample vegan fare, enjoy displays and information from a scad of exhibitors, enter raffles, and have your questions about healthful, ethical food answered, when you hear the scheduled guest speakers. With titles like, ‘Food Choices and your Nitrogen Footprint,’ and, ‘Thriving on a Whole-Food, Plant- Based Diet,’ these speeches can’t steer you and your young ones wrong.


Now to get them outside and running around. For a few hours’ worth of fresh air that includes a dash around the bases for kids at Hadlock Field (271 Park Ave.), go to Superhero Day with our own Portland Sea Dogs. It’s on Sunday, May 28 at 1 p.m. The main draw is the appearance, including photo and autograph opportunities, of the official Marvel-sanctioned Iron Man character. For more participation, kids and adults are encouraged to wear crimefighting costumes of their own. Prizes for the best will be awarded. Costumed kids may even be chosen and brought onto the field during one of several between-innings promotions. And of course, you’ve got the game itself.


Now, all you have to do is things like those, all the time. No problem, right?


  • Published in Kids

A Dog's Favorite Season

Like us humans, dogs love summertime. If anything, there are at least a lot more interesting things to smell, the walks are longer, and more new friends can be met because they’re coming out of wintertime hiding too. Sometimes, your human doesn’t even see that other human they obviously need to meet, and it’s easier to pull them over there when there’s no snow and ice on the ground. And the dog parks!


If you think your dog is thinking it’s about time to go on a road trip to a summer festival all about canines, bring the whole family to Hops & Hounds presented by Tito’s Handmade Vodka at the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum (2077 State Rd, Eliot) on Saturday, June 17 from noon to 5 p.m. Admission for dogs is free, humans are $5 each. The event is rain-or-shine and nonrefundable.


As the name Hops & Hounds implies, tasty brews are a focus this day on the lovely, grassy 33 acres of the Farm Museum, as much as the happy gathered pups are. Get something to eat at one of the food trucks (including Crust, Maine Falafel Company, Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen, and more), and to wash it down, sip a cold Tito’s Handmade Vodka Drink, a Funky Bow Brewery Craft Beer, or one of many other available brews.


And, as if it’s not fun enough just to do that and watch everybody’s dogs play, Hops & Hounds will also offer these features: the Take Me Home Zone, with several organizations with dogs up for adoption; the Seacoast Dock Dogs Competition; music from Annie Brobst; Hydration Stations by Take Five Dogcare; the dog-friendly photo booth; dog washing stations and more. Oh, that fenced in park your dog can’t wait to get to? There’s going to be one of those too.


Check for more, and let that puppy hop in the car!


  • Published in Pets

A Running Family's Memorial Day

Think back to that series of roots you had to remember, or get tripped up, on that one part of your old high school’s cross-country running trail. The silent whoosh of the trees and tall grass slipping by as you run. Wet socks, from the dew on the grass. Ducking a stray sapling branch as you speed by, or leaning into it to save a fraction of a second on the turn. It’s the best of hiking combined with the best of road racing; it’s trail running, and guess what? You can spend your entire Memorial Day weekend competing in, and celebrating, this sublime sport.


Go to the L.L. Bean Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms (25 Campus Dr, New Gloucester), on Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28 (with packet pick-up at the L.L. Bean Flagship Store in Freeport on Friday, May 26). A complete array of trail races will be held, to include a Kids’ 1K (for ages 5 and up), an adults’ 5K, a Canicross 5K (race with your dog), a 10K, a 25K, a 50K, and for the especially grizzled and hardy, the 50-mile Ultra, all on the rolling hills and forested trails of Pineland Farms. Over 2,000 registered participants are expected to attend.


But that’s only half the fun. To ring in Memorial Day and the unofficial beginning of summer, sponsors and organizers will hold a post-race barbeque to benefit local high school athletics, featuring the biggest potluck spread you’ve ever seen, beer, pizza, burgers, sausages and dogs, and more. Separate grills and utensils will be used for vegetarian fare. Music is covered too, with Matt Meyer and the Gumption Junction playing on Saturday and The Curse of Kona rocking the stage at the Grove on Sunday.


The Festival’s organizers recommend staying in Freeport if you are traveling into the area, as Pineland Farms is only ten miles away from there.


For complete information and registration links, visit


  • Published in Sports

Are There Really Monsters in Our World? An Interview with children's book author Gregory Hofmann

Are your kids old enough to be fascinated by fantastical creatures, but still young enough to want to look at pictures while you read to them? We may have found the perfect solution, in local author Gregory Hofmann’s new children’s picture book, Larger than Life, which he also illustrated. Excited about his kids’ lit debut (he’s already a novelist and poet), he took the time to reveal some insights to us:


GG: What were your three favorite picture books as a child? Which three would you recommend to parents now, as an adult?

GH: The top three picture books that I remember loving as a child were Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Corduroy by Don Freeman, and Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I also remember when I was just a little older reading all the Shel Silverstein books of poetry over and over again. Now that I'm a parent, I've found some new favorites like Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (which I just realized is part of a trilogy!) and the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. If it's one of those nights when Mack just won't fall asleep, I switch over to reading Pablo Neruda poetry in Spanish, and he's out like a light.


GG: How did your desire and then your decision to become a children's author come about?

GH: I've been a novelist, poet, illustrator for a long time, and I noticed that my projects can become really sprawling projects that take years to write and more years to organize, edit and rewrite. Writing this children's book was a much more concise project. It still took a lot of revision, but where editing a novel can feel like monumental sculpture, editing this book felt more like polishing a stone, or sharpening a knife. The smaller scope allowed me to really focus on it in a way that felt loving. Besides all that, I have a son who just turned five, and my girlfriend has a six-year-old, and I was able to bond with them over the writing and drawing process, which is a delightful departure from other writing experiences that have felt much more cerebral, and isolating.


GG: What about your decision to illustrate Larger than Life yourself? Was there a process?

GH: Illustrating the book was so much fun, and really grew me as an artist. All of the original drawings are done with #2 pencils, and then I built up color and contrast in Photoshop. It was a really complicated way to arrive at what looks like a colored pencil drawing, but I'm so happy with the way it turned out. My son and my girlfriend's son would hang out with me on the couch, and tell me what colors things should be (if I hadn't exercised a little veto power, most everything in the book would be gold or turquoise).


GG: One of your reviewers thought it was great to expose their kids to mythological-type creatures like the minotaur and the centaur. How do you think it benefits young minds to think about fantasy beasts, etc?

GH: I think it's fun to play around with challenging a kid's expectations. Many of these creatures have a one-dimensionally sinister, or one-dimensionally good reputation, and I don't like making things that simple for my own son. Sometimes he asks me a question like, "Dad, are there really monsters in our world?" and then I embark on a long-winded exploration of how complicated life truly is, and how fear can turn anything into a monster. I am happy to find that this book is already starting conversations between parents and kids about myth and magic and archetypes, and I was careful not to push that agenda too hard.


GG: Can you remember the original spark of an idea that eventually became the book? What was it? And what happened next?

GH: I had been reading Shel Silverstein to the kids every night, and on a particularly quiet morning, with his easy cadence on my mind, I wrote a short poem about these creatures. It came easily, and made me want to pick up a pencil and start to draw the pictures. It felt like the project was choosing me.


Find out more about Larger Than Life at or order the book at one of your local retailers.

  • Published in Kids

Dog Food Wisdom from Above

Many thanks to local veterinarian Nadia F. Conti, DVM, who wrote in to point out that I had unknowingly helped to perpetuate at least one misconception about canine dental care. We think it is worth it to print her letter in its entirety, and we are very happy to have been corrected by someone who knows. Dr. Conti writes:


Love your column — any article that supports the wellbeing of our pets is great. However, there are a few things I want to point out from a veterinary perspective.


You said, "Use dry food (kibble), not wet. When dogs eat kibble, the chomping, crushing action on the hard pellets naturally abrades plaque and tartar off the teeth. Wet food, on the other hand, not only does not provide this cleaning factor, but also can stick to teeth, actually accelerating decay. So give wet food on occasion as a treat, but on a daily basis, if possible, feed your dog a high-quality dry food from a reputable manufacturer."


The fact that dry food is better than wet food to reduce plaque and periodontal disease is a common fallacy and one that needs to be addressed. While foods such as Hill's Science Diet t/d have been formulated and documented to control tartar and plaque (clean) by its specially designed matrix, your standard dry dog food is unable to do this. Carnivores' sharp pointed teeth are designed to grasp, kill, and gulp food down, and the few flat-surfaced molar teeth they possess (none are present in cats) are designed to crush and grind. From a evolutionary standpoint, dog and cat teeth were largely designed to eat "wet" food (i.e. flesh from their prey) and the idea of it accelerating decay is a misconception.


You said, "Speaking of treats, you may have suspected that those oral-care focused doggie treats were nothing but a marketing ploy, but we have it from Dr. Michael Tuder, owner and director of four animal hospitals on the East Coast, that they do work. Snacks like Greenies or Natural Balance … microscopically rub against the teeth and remove debris. So compared with expensive veterinary procedures down the road, the price of dental dog treats is justified for loving dog owners."


Dental chews are a great idea, however I suggest that the ones chosen have a Veterinary Oral Health Concil (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance. This council of independent veterinary dentists receives voluntary data submitted by the companies that demonstrate the required dental efficacy - reducing the formation of plaque and tartar - and then awards the product the seal. The VOHC has a website that all can access to get a list of these products and other useful information:


Of course, despite our best efforts (brushing, water additives, dental chews, nutritious foods) dental disease can occur and that is why a yearly veterinary check up is important to assess the condition of teeth, and schedule a cleaning if necessary. Again, thanks for the good work of shedding light on this important topic and others.


Cheers to you,

Nadia F. Conti, DVM

Scarborough Animal Hospital

  • Published in Pets

Two Low-Impact Nature Hikes

Among athletes, the casual hiker is less hardcore than, say, the running devotee or the victory-driven baseball player. For the hikers, their sport is less about strengthening the muscles or increasing the heart rate than it is about getting out into natural surroundings and enjoying the sounds, sights and smells that only come with being outside the city or suburbs. Birdsong, breeze through the treetops, the scent of earth and pine. A strengthening of the spirit, if you will. Of course, there are those hikers who are ultra-outfitted and do things like walk the entire Appalachian Trail every few years just to relax and recharge. But for our purposes here, if you like the idea of a low-impact walk in the woods, these two upcoming free events are for you:


On Friday, May 12 at the Trout Brook Nature Preserve (47 Parrott St, SoPo) at 9 a.m., it’s Get to Know Your Trails, a series of walks sponsored by the South Portland Land Trust. On this one, participants will be guided for approximately an hour on an easy hike through the Preserve, becoming familiar with the trail system’s layout and learning about the rich history of the area. The focus will be on appreciating this part of South Portland’s wooded areas and its various forms of life, in a leisurely manner, so kids (and well-behaved dogs) are welcome. The event can also be found at on Facebook.


The next day, go to the Bird & Nature Walk at Pleasant Hill Preserve (302 Pleasant Hill Rd, Scarborough) at 5 p.m. to check out their brand-new trail and experience the multitude of birds that call these woods home. The hike is for all ages and will be led by area business leader and conservationist Eddie Woodin. To give you some idea of Woodin’s local cachet, there has been an award given in his name yearly since 2006 that recognizes families for things like having the smallest carbon footprint. He will discuss Pleasant Hill’s plants, trees, and wetlands and help attendees explore wild birds’ roosting, nesting and feeding places. Find more at .


So go and let Mother Nature speak to you. Listen, and you might just learn a few secrets.

  • Published in Sports

Outside the Box for Mom

Upon hearing the phrase "Mother's Day," many women who are raising or have raised children will scoff and say, “Everyday should be Mother’s Day,” the implication being that moms are the hardest working people on earth (and the veterans of the most pain). It is an assertion against which it is hard to argue. So to make this year special, here’s a spin on the usual breakfast in bed, card and flowers, comprising three events nearby this weekend:

On Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at Michaels (490 Payne Rd, Scarborough), the Kids Club crafting activity will be making handmade Mother’s Day cards, with supplies provided. Ask any mom whether she prefers original drawings or slickness from the drugstore on the cards she gets for Mother’s Day and you can see why this is a good idea. Parents do not have to be in the crafting room with their kids (ages 3 and up), but they must remain on Michaels premises. (If you’ve seen their inventory, you won’t be at a loss for things to look at.) There are only ten seats available for this Kids Club, so register at (click on Kids’ Programs) for only $2.

Okay, the cards are made and hidden, to be given the next day, to Mom’s adulation. Now it’s time for a Mother’s Day Brunch, specifically, the one at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine (142 Free St., Portland) on Sunday, May 14, from 10 to 11 a.m. The meal is free with admission to the museum, which is $10 per person (under 18 months free). The menu? Delicious fresh fruit, and hotcakes shaped like hearts. And the best part, nobody has to clean the kitchen! So enjoy brunch, and take a gander at some of the other offerings at the Museum.

But don’t stay too long, because for the ‘flowers’ part of the program, you’ll be heading to the Spring Wildflower Walk at Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park (426 Wolf Neck Rd, Freeport), that same day at 2 p.m. You’ll need to pay for admission to the park (for Mainers, under 5 free, 12–64, $5, 65 and older free), but the walk doesn’t cost anything extra. A friendly and knowledgeable guide will spend an hour with your family, discovering and enjoying Maine wildflowers, from the common Blackeyed Susan to the secretive Jack-in-the-pulpit, much to the delight of the one who’s probably already wondering what she’s going to feed her crew for dinner.

Dads and partners, you might want to do the dishes.


  • Published in Kids
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