Pantry Challenge Update

I hadn’t planned that the challenge would be so challenging. I am in week 5 and it’s still going on, just not quite as planned. As you may know, I signed up for six week of Pantry Challenge and Ray signed up for six weeks of Home Brew Challenge. So far we have been able to donate about $100 a week to the Game Loft but I will admit that these days going to Hannaford is our weekly outing and when there I am persuaded to buy things that otherwise I would do without. Last week it was popcorn and throughout the month I have been buying hot cross buns. So much for good intentions!

I have been trying very hard to use things up, though. I made a double batch of tapioca pudding that didn’t turn out very well but I am glumly eating my way through it. I made two loaves of gingerbread yesterday and that makes Ray happy. I won’t have any help now on the remaining tapioca. I still have lots of rice so we are having fried rice with odds and ends tonight. I have always heard that fried rice is basically Chinese leftovers and so it will be for us.

Have you ever made homemade mango sorbet? Here’s an idea if you happen to be hoarding a bag of frozen mango, as I am. This is not a recipe but you can do it from these instructions. Put a cup or two of frozen mango in a blender. Add ½ cup of lemon juice and ½ cup sugar. Blend until smooth. It makes quite refreshing mango sorbet. You can adjust the sweetness or tartness to taste. I think you could also do this with other frozen fruit but I haven’t tried.

I’m looking forward to Easter. I had a loaf of stolen in my freezer leftover from Christmas. I have been doling out one slice each on Sundays during the Pantry Challenge and the loaf is almost done but then for Easter I can make a whole fresh loaf. In different times that might not have been a big deal but now we take our pleasure where we can.

Pantry Challenge Updates

Keep Calm and Carry On

When I designed the Pantry Challenge fundraiser for the Game Loft I didn’t realize that we will all be feeling challenged to empty our pantries and be more food aware than we could then imagine. So instead of showing you what you already know, that our supplies are going down, I offer a word of hope during this time that has stressed out many people.

My grandmother was born in 1888. She lived through the Russian Revolution, World War I, World War II and the Cold War. During the 1960’s when my mother was anxiously watching television for more news about some upcoming war my grandmother turned away from the set and said to me, “You know this whole Russian Communist thing? We always thought it was just a fad.” She died in 1988 and never got to see that her words came true, Russian communism faded away like an outdated fashion.

Right now it seems as though we will always be under the threat of the current pandemic and that life will never return to normal. That is particularly true for kids who have not experienced this kind of hysteria before. I remind them, and those of you who are old enough to remember, that global or national disasters happen on a regular basis and that we must “keep calm and carry on.”

I remember during the 1970’s we lived through a very significant gas crisis. My boss stated categorically that living in rural areas would soon be impossible because there would be no gasoline for our cars and no heating oil for our houses. He strongly advised all hospital employees to move to congregate housing within walking distance of the hospital as soon as possible but before I could pack my possessions the oil embargo ended. However, during the embargo there was a restriction on gasoline purchases on Sunday. I was travelling back to Aroostook County from a visit to Yarmouth when I realized outside of Lincoln, ME that I didn’t have enough gas to make it home. My son, Adam, was then about 2 years old and I realized that he and I would have to find a place to stay the night in Lincoln. I pulled into a shabby tourist hotel and signed the register while a sinister old woman looked over my shoulder. “Isn’t there anyone at home waiting for you dear?” she croaked. I shook my head. “Are you all alone with your little boy?” she asked pointing a crooked finger at my son. When I said I was okay she said, “Aren’t you brave!” I thought to myself, “If she offers, don’t drink the elderberry wine (a reference to Arsenic and Old Lace.) I survived then and we will all survive now. But somewhere in Lincoln, ME I would not be surprised if an old man named Teddy is digging the Panama Canal in his basement.

Keep smiling and send us postcards that we can distribute to kids.

From the Kitchen: Game Loft Pantry Challenge Updates

From our Director’s Kitchen a blog from Patricia Estabrook

Update March 15, 2020

Four years before I met Ray, at the tail end of a gray winter in Concord, NH 40 years ago I faced my first pantry challenge.  I had been the director of a guardianship program for elderly patients at New Hampshire Hospital and the funding ran out. My last paycheck hit a snafu in the bureaucracy delaying my eligibility for unemployment compensation. I called my mother and she agreed to send me a check for $100 but it was delayed in the mail. And so one Monday I faced the week with $12.47 and almost nothing in the pantry. Since I had two pounds of pasta on my shelf I spent my last cash to buy pasta sauce and hamburger, enough to last until one of the checks came in. I skipped breakfast and ate pasta and sauce for lunch on Monday. That was OK. The next day it was still OK. By Wednesday I was getting a little bored with the menu but I was sure that help was coming at any moment. On Thursday I was starting to get really bored and a little anxious. After nine straight meals of pasta with meat sauce I was frantic so I called a friend and begged for a dinner invitation. She was glad to oblige and when I arrived at her warm cottage in the woods I imagined lentil soup, Brussels sprouts, hot dogs, anything but pasta and sauce! She met me at the door smiling and invited me in to a heaping plate of macaroni with meat and red sauce.

Both checks arrived the next day and I gleefully threw out the last sullen mass of pasta and sauce. I tell you that story from long ago and far away because it prefaces a confession. Even though I am deep into my self-imposed Pantry Challenge 2020 I could not face the fourth meal of spaghetti squash Bolognese and threw out the leftovers this morning. There, I said it, and am guilty as charged. We are having roast pork tonight.

Friends, I would like to take one more minute of your time today to beg for food. Now in the midst of the Covid-19 panic I urge you to think about kids in our community. Local schools have closed and so the Game Loft will be closing as well, but we will still need to care for kids in our community who are food insecure. At this moment we are setting the wheels in progress to feed kids with grab-and-go meals even as regular programs have closed. This is the kind of support that we provide the community. Please help it continue by giving generously today to the Game Loft. Please consider any amount, even $12.47 to help kids in need. We are relying on you.

Game Loft Updates Concerning COVID-19

In light of the RSU 71 and RSU 3 closures, The Game Loft will be closed for regular programming until further notice.

However, we feel that it is now especially important that we honor our commitment to feed the kids the community who need it. To this end, The Game Loft’s Belfast site will be providing lunches on a grab-and-go basis from 12-2pm 7 days a week beginning on Tuesday, March 17th to all school-aged youth regardless of Game Loft membership.

We will keep everyone posted on any updates as we get them. Thank you all for your continued support and understanding. Please call us at 338-6447 or e-mail with any questions.

Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Mean Social Isolation

For the past 22 years the Game Loft has emphasized “no physical contact.” Now we have new reasons to enforce that policy. The no physical contact rule has always been in place to make sure that all our kids are safe from roughhousing and unwanted affectionate contact. Now, we are keeping ourselves safe from Covid-19 by requiring appropriate social distancing. We all wish we could be open during this period but we are doing our best to keep you safe.Fortunately, you don’t have to cut off all Game Loft contact just because your games have been cancelled. Chris Donley has volunteered to be a contact to you during this period through Facebook. He will have the question of the day as well as chat about games or other areas of interest to you. You are important to us and we want to stay in touch, without touching of course.If self-isolation during this time gets to be too difficult reach out to us through Facebook. We are always there for you.

‘Reach Out to ME: I’ll Be There’ Postcard Project’

The Game Loft continues our work to create meaningful community connections for local youth and reduce the impact of social isolation during this time of necessary social distancing with ‘Reach Out to ME: I’ll be there’, an innovative postcard exchange initiative!

Here is something you can do during this unprecedented period of isolation. Kids love getting mail the old fashioned way. You can brighten the life of a kid who may be feeling anxious and depressed during this forced vacation. Please write a postcard to a kid in need. We are hoping to send out 200 postcards a day to kids in the local area who are housebound and nervous about the changes in their lives due to the school closings. Make the messages light or funny. Riddles or jokes would be appreciated. We are asking for postcards rather than letters so that parents can pre-screen all content. Please do not use your full name or address on the postcard. Drop the postcards off at the Game Loft 78A Main Street in Belfast. We will re-address the cards and make sure that they get to kids who need a smile. If you have blank postcards of any type we will be glad to have them. Donations can be dropped off at the Game Loft. 

For more information about this program please call Patricia Estabrook at 207-322-3229 (cell phone). To learn more about the Game Loft and regular programming visit

From the Kitchen: Game Loft Pantry Challenge Updates

From our Director’s Kitchen a blog from Patricia Estabrook

Update on the Pantry Challenge March 8
First, thanks to all of you have signed up for the pantry challenge. I have made it through the first week in pretty good shape. I do find that I am very conscious of what we have and what we are eating. In the past I would go for variety and put in the back of the refrigerator the leftovers from the previous day. You know, as well as I do, what a terrible fate comes to those leftovers. They sit on the shelf unwanted until they are green and fuzzy. So this week we have eaten our leftovers and Ray has been forgiving and, at times, complimentary. 

Two things surprised me this week, but I was able to roll with the punches. The first was that we had an unexpected invitation to eat out with a friend who is recovering from a major illness. I had only one dinner out for the month on my plan so that is over. No more eating out in March. The second was that I failed to check my calendar and godson Andrew’s birthday came up with very little warning. Fortunately I had planned to roast a chicken and I had some frozen pound cake in my freezer so I was able to make the meal look festive (and planned!).

I found 15 blackened bananas in my freezer and so I began to use them up. How I got 15 bananas is beyond me. I made banana bread the conventional way with the first 5 and with coconut instead of pecans in the second batch. While coconut is O.K. in banana bread it didn’t stand out but I was able to save my precious store of pecans for one last recipe this month. 

This week I find that I’d better make some hummus and some caponata that I didn’t get to last week or lunches will be a little on the catch-as-catch can side. For supper I am making Caldo Verde with kielbasa, chicken vegetable soup using the leftovers from the birthday dinner, and a roast pork butt that will give us lots of leftovers. Since I was raised to believe that pork can’t be digested without apples (where did that one come from?) I am also serving applesauce that I canned last fall. 

Ray is doing well with his home brew challenge. He came to the realization that he actually prefers the coffee he makes at home to the brew he can get on the road. So we are all learning. 

I will deliver my first check for $100 for the combined pantry and brew challenge on Monday. Please help support this effort in any way you can. 

P.S. I feel a little like Jerry Lewis doing the Muscular Dystrophy marathon on Labor Day weekend years ago. By the end of six weeks I may be frantically begging for your leftovers so please help soon.