Time to Listen: Candy Voices

October 14, 2013

Chestertown hosts an annual book festival; the town was the site of the culminating event for the One Maryland / One Book program a few years back when James McBride spoke at the Fine Arts Center up the street; Washington College gives the largest literary prize in the country to a graduating senior each year and the local news frequently contains information about poets and authors giving lectures here.  So I think it’s safe to say that one can find books and book gatherings tucked away in lots of corners of our neck of the woods.  Recently (within the past year) I became a part of a local book group – a small group of high school friends and friends of friends and we’ve been reading whatever has struck our fancy.  Our most recent title is King Peggy, (another One MD / One Book selection), which I finished last night.  (At 2 A.M., I’m sorry to say, which is a problem with me and books – an especially significant problem when I have to get up at 6 to do breakfast, but here I sit at 3 P.M., and I haven’t konked out yet, so it’s going to work out just fine).  I love reading a book like there’s no tomorrow…

Friends and neighbors greeted one another cheerfully.  Peggy closed her eyes and listened.  The voices of Ghanaians had a different timbre entirely from Americans’.  Their voices were rich, deep, and reminded her of different kinds of candy–there was the bittersweet chocolate voice of an old man, the caramel and nut voice of a middle-aged woman, the mint chocolate voice of a middle-aged man, the butter cream voice of a young woman.

And Peggy’s voice?  Someone had once told her it was like hot chocolate, and that her laughter was like boulders of chocolate rolling down a mountain.  She had thought the remark was odd at the time but now, listening to the African voices all around her, she understood it.     (pp. 157-158, King Peggy, Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman, 2012). 

Candy voices:  do you have time to hear them?

Knot Joy and Jo Joy

August 20, 2013

Tonight at a neighbor’s, I was all ears listening to a young college professor talk about her field of pure mathematics. (Didn’t know there was such a thing, but I was interested and engaged because she was excited about her subject, and about knots – not the bowling, square or half-hitch kind, but the math kind. And gosh, did you even know – or care – that there was such a thing as math knots? But you would’ve, if you could have heard her talk!) It was her passion that pulled and persuaded and I wanted to hear more. Plus it made me really like her. (I did already, but hearing the way her heart came bursting out into math – of all places! – made me a believer and fan – a happy one, full of the joy of math-promises.)

It was in Kansas City in the 1930s that Jo* found the promised land. The music never stopped in Kansas City. Literally….’You never knew what time in the morning someone would knock on the door and say they were jamming down the street.’

And at work, ‘it wasn’t unusual for one number to go on for about an hour or an hour and a half. Nobody got tired. They didn’t tell me at the time that they used to change drummers [during the night], so I just sat there and played the whole time for pure joy.’

As he spread the joy, Jo often took you unawares. One night in Boston, he left the drums, left the stand, and with just his hands tapping a chair started to take his listeners out of ordinary time.

Moving around the room, playing with his fingers or with the palms of his hands or his knuckles, he drew rhythms and melodies from tables, chairs, the floor, the walls, the very air. Grinning fiercely, Jo mesmerized his listeners for nearly an hour without going back to the bandstand. For them, straight time had stopped; they were in his time. (p. 38, Listen to the Stories, Nat Hentoff On Jazz and Country Music, Hentoff

Spreading the joy. It’s what I want to do, too.

* Jo, or Jonathan David Samuel Jones, a jazz piano great, who, “along with Chick Webb, set the standards by which other drummers were measured during the heyday of the swing era.” (p. 17, The Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues, Keith Shadwick.)

Aaugh! Sorry! Blog posts have morphed into FB posts!!

May 22, 2013

This is an invitation to check out our facebook Simply Bed & Bread facebook page: I realized that I’d been neglecting this blog while doing daily fb posts. Sorry! I do love stories – love living them, discovering them and re-telling them, but the new ones aren’t here; they’re on the facebook page. And this neglect has just sort of happened. I don’t really think I even realized it. So I’ll be catching up soon! I promise! Thanks for checking!

Comfort

March 24, 2013

“‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘Speak tenderly to them….'” Isaiah 40:1

Comfort comes, like the poet’s fog sometimes, on little cat feet. It’s gentle, sometimes small and soft, and chords are struck inside of us that feel right and good. Often we don’t know that we need it; we weren’t searching for it. It just finds us. And that is a lovely thing.

In State of Wonder, Ann Patchett writes:

…Marina remembered a funeral her father had taken her to as a child, thousands of lights in paper cups
floating down the Ganges, the people crowded onto the banks, walking into the water, cutting through the night air filled with incense and smoke. She could smell the rot of the water beneath the blanket of flowers. At the time the spectacle had frightened her so badly she buried her face in her father’s shirt and kept it there for the rest of the night, but now she was grateful for the little she had seen. It didn’t explain what was spread out before her but it reminded her of all the things she didn’t understand… (p. 186)

Easter Eggs!!

March 22, 2013

My mother was the sister known for her baking, but after she died, the youngest of the sisters, Aunt Sara, became the go-to gal for goodies. She’d experiment with new recipes and fly around the kitchen, “slopping here and there,” according to her 8-year-older sister, our Aunt Bernice, (who was anything BUT messy; my land, she washed her trash) and what Aunt Sara came up with was always a winner. I don’t remember how old our girls were when she had to stop making them – but I believe she made individual eggs for each of the family members up until the girls were grown. Adding them all up, I’d say she made a ton of Easter eggs over the years.

In our house each egg was carefully guarded till they were gone. Mine was usually gone the first day. (I’ve been like this since early childhood, when I’d eat my entire chocolate bunny all at once and then would plot about how to get some of my sister’s, since she would eat a bit at a time – to torture me, I always thought. When our girls were babies, I’d fix them a basket with chocolate rabbits, knowing full well from the get-go who was going to eat those bite-sized baby bunnies. I do love a good bunny.) The Sally Forth comic strip was always my favorite, since Sally would always sneak into her daughter’s Easter basket and bite the ears off, just like I always wanted to do. It didn’t take our girls long to figure out that their chocolate had to be guarded, so each of Aunt Sara’s eggs were labeled and stored in separate places in the fridge. (I sometimes would sneak very, very thin slices from David’s egg, since I didn’t think he’d notice, and he generally didn’t.)

Anyway, all this is to say that I firmly believe Easter eggs personify something really big and wonderful and that they’re full of love. So that’s why today’s guests, a mom and her daughter, will have 2 on the table waiting for them. Their names are written on them, in case one of them has the same penchant for pinching as I do…..

Easter Eggs

1 stick butter
1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
4 oz softened cream cheese
4 c confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix, shape, chill, then coat with melted choc which has about a tsp of paraffin melted in.

Hummus

January 31, 2013

Cathy, our regular vegetarian guest, likened the Roasted Mushroom and Blue Cheese Hummus to her vegetarian pate that she makes. Creamy, thick and scrumptious, this hummus recipe is just too good not to share! Unfortunately, I can’t give credit to the source. I ripped it out of one of my magazines, so it’s possible that the recipe is from Eating Well, or from one I was given. I can only apologize for this oversight; there’s just not enough page left to figure it out. But the recipe is from Portebello’s in Kennett Square, (PA??) from Chef Brett Hulbert. It is served with fresh vegetables and crostini there. Since I had some homemade wheat bread in the fridge, that’s what I made my crostini from – just swished it around in some olive oil, s & p, fried it just a bit, then popped it into the oven for a nice crisp browning – just a larger version of yesterday’s homemade croutons**. Enjoy! Vegetarian or not, this is wonderful!

Roasted Mushroom and Blue Cheese Hummus

2 lbs button mushrooms
1/2 c olive oil
S & P
20 – 30 garlic cloves, sliced (I used minced garlic in a jar. It’s just fine.)
1 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans
1 1/2 lbs blue cheese, crumbled
1 bunch scallions, chopped (I used a Vidalia onion, grated, b/c I never have scallions.)
3 T fresh thyme
2 T fresh tarragon

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Coat mushrooms with half of the olive oil and season with S & P. Roast until mushrooms are reduced in size by about a third, approximately 25 min’s. Cool.

Over high heat saute garlic in remaining olive oil till edges just start to brown. Cool.

Puree all ingredients in food processor or a blender.

10 – 12 servings (I quartered the recipe; it yielded about a cup of yumminess.)

** If you’re frying something wonderful in a skillet and there are some drippings left – (today I had just fried the Farmhouse Veggie Burgers) – just use this pan to swish the bread around in for the croutons or crostini. You might need to add some more olive oil, but it gives some added flavor. Hmmm…I wouldn’t use a fried chicken skillet, though… 🙂

Sugar Cookies

January 15, 2013

After David’s mom died, when I was going through things in her 209 Mt. Vernon house, sorting, saving and discarding, I really did try to be very careful, believing that a tender treatment of her treasures would somehow be a tribute to her. It was a lengthy job, but was one which I relished, and I stuck to my rule about not bringing anything across the street to our 208 address unless it was going to live there forever. At the end of each clean-up day, I tried to leave my work site organized, and after a day in her kitchen, sifting through recipes, I had the most special ones tucked away safely in a plastic grocery bag, along with some other things which I intended to keep. I brought my bag across the street. But after a day of cleaning at her house, my will wavered when I got home. I thought I was being careful, and left the bag next to my own kitchen counter. David, naturally, did not see my “safe spot” in the same way that I had, since the location of my sack of stuff was also next to the trash can. And it did happen to be trash day. So being the efficient guy that he is, he scooped this bag up with the others – and since there had already been about a million bags that looked just like the one I had set aside, why should this one be any different?? The recipes were gone before I could “shake a stick,” as my own mother used to say. I can’t remember what the other items were in the bag, (which proves that I didn’t really need them), but I grieved the loss of some of her cookie recipes. Her cookies contained stories, plus I liked the way they tasted! BUT oftentimes, when we’re sure the sun will never come out on a given situation, it eventually does. The other day, when I received some new cookie cutters in the mail – I’d needed some music-themed ones – there was a “Decorated Sugar Cookie Recipe” (http://www.cookiecuttercompany.com) which I determined to try asap. I made them the other day. And guess what? They tasted like Grandma’s, David’s mom’s!! I believe cookies have to be just right, and it’s the texture that made me an instant believer in these, just as my first chomp at Christmastime at Grandma’s house had done with her’s. Enjoy!

Decorated Sugar Cookie Recipe (The Cookie Cutter Company)

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium eggs
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and extract. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill dough for 2 hours. Roll out 1/4″ thick. 400 degrees – 5-7 minutes.

Messages

January 6, 2013

The man looked angry. At the very least, he was passionate about what he was doing. I couldn’t have missed him, since he was almost in the southbound roadway by Big Woods Road, staring me down. His car was parked perpendicular to the road I was on, and to underscore his motions, a woman was standing closeby, in the cold, seemingly one with him on his mission. It was his huge, exaggerated motions, as he was waving both arms and hands downward, indicating that I should SLOW DOWN, that stopped me. It never occurred to me not to. I hadn’t been speeding. I was going the speed limit, 55 mph, heading north on Rt 213, on my way to church 45 minutes away. It was 8:10 A.M. I was on time, not in a hurry, had the radio cranked up, and I was cruising. But I was primed for his message, since just prior to seeing the man and woman by the side of the road, a driver had just passed me, heading south, who had flashed his lights at me. Usually that is the universal signal for “Trooper ahead,” (which sometimes even annoys me, since I inwardly and self-righteously pride myself on usually going the speed limit.) But – ahem – ironically, I always check my speedometer when that happens, anyway. 🙂 I was going 58, so I re-set the crusie to 55. It had been seconds later that I’d received the message to go slower, which was when I had immediately responded to the man’s motions. As I’d been braking, I’d noticed that the brakes had seemed weird, like something minor, but there’d been sort of crunching almost which didn’t register as anything at all, but I had slowed almost to a stop. I wondered if I would be able to stop, but the brakes did respond. As I put my window down, the man shouted, “THERE’S ICE! SLOW DOWN OR YOU’LL HAVE A WRECK, TOO!” at which time it all clicked: the flashing lights, the man and woman, and the crunching. And sure enough, just out of my sight at first, but just a second or two later, there was a truck off the road, leaning at about a 45 degree angle. The driver, a man, was holding his cell phone and punching numbers into it. He seemed absolutely fine. YAY. Well, yet another YAY, since our daughter and grandson had just been in a car accident this past Thursday during rush hour outside of Philadelphia, where a wonderful troooer had gone out of his way to comfort, guide and protect them after they’d been crashed into. But they were fine, too. As I also was – on January 29, 1978, pregnant with that same daughter, when I’d totalled my car on the way to teach kindergarten at Millington Elementary School. That’s a lot of yays of both kinds, hurrays and non-nays. Messages are not created equal, but we get them. “My eyes will watch over them for their good….” (Jeremiah 24:6). Got it, Lord. Flashing lights, “mean”-looking man, kind trooper, crunching, car by the side of the road. Yep, I heard You. Thanks. (Again.)

Zazzle Dazzle 2

December 18, 2012

I would be remiss if I didn’t give “the rest of the story,” as they say….

IT WAS ALL MY MISTAKE. Zazzle sent me the correct order – the FIRST time!!! THEN they sent me the second order, packaged identically to the first one, and I mistakenly assumed that the second was incorrect as well. BUT as I finally looked again – very closely – at both the packing slip (which was my order) and the package of items, I realized that they were packed as a unit, and not individually. I had ordered CARDS. That’s all. No ornaments. Adrian’s ornament, packed with the Grammy-love that wasn’t able to be delivered in a timely way, was sitting in my closet, completely forgottten, along with the other ornaments that I had also ordered so far in advance that they were non-existent (in my mind, anyway).

So here I am – with the proverbial egg on my face. Oh, and Lana’s reply?? (When I wrote to her and confessed all) was again just as gracious as it had been the first time. “Have a merry Christmas. You don’t have to mail back the duplicates; keep them, discard them or donate them.” I deserved ANYTHING but THAT! It was mercy and grace. I’ll take it – gratefully. Thank you, Lana, for your Christmas gifts to me.

It was on a much smaller scale, obviously, but it kind of reminded me of another Gift given, don’t you think???

Zazzle Dazzle

December 10, 2012

I decided to dazzle Zazzle today – by NOT sending my moaning message about my disgruntled discovery of their delivery delay. I decided that Lana, in customer support, had to read far too many rude remonstrances at this jolly time of the year to add my own to the miserable mix.

Oh, I was disappointed, all right, and I’d wanted them to know it. You see, my miniature martial arts guy, a Christmas ornament for our grandson, did not get put into the package that was mailed to us in a timely manner. And the replacement, which was eventually shipped, was scheduled for arrival exactly one day AFTER our trip to our daughter’s house – one day too LATE for Grammy and Grampy to be able to hand it to Adrian for his little Christmas tree. And that was not OK. (And if you’re a grandparent who does not live next door to his / her grandchild, you know what I’m talking about and you can clearly see that a LOT was riding on that one small package. LOVE would not get delivered, and THAT tends to put grammies over the edge. Which was why I had begun composing my email to Lana).

As I was struggling to get just the right words – so that I wouldn’t sound like a grammy-grinch (although that was exactly what I was going to be to Lana, who probably doesn’t even begin to get paid enough to read about how the omission of one ordinary object could threaten to destroy the entire legacy of a loving, well-meaning, efficient, organized, timely – did I mention that I sent my order to Zazzle waaaaay in advance of when I needed it?? – grandparent to his / her grandchild), when, all of a sudden, I saw myself. And what I was doing. And I laughed right out loud. Sheesh.

It’s Christmas. It’s a busy time. Things happen. Mistakes are made. Yes, an entire chunk of my order (most of it, actually, not just the juvenile judo jock) was ommitted from the package, and sadly, yes, they were all checked off, but I don’t know, ….maybe the person packing it that day had had a family emergency. Maybe it had been packed an overworked, way-stressed, worried, frightened mama who’d had to send her sleepy child to school that day because he was kept awake the night before by events too egregious to even begin to explain. Christmas isn’t always happy in every home….

So I didn’t send it. We’ll do sonmething else with Adrian on Wednesday besides putting a new ornament on his tree. It’ll be OK. Each day we go is a gift, and it’s not because of the things we carry in our hands.

And Lana and the packer of our package? Well, I say, “Merry Christmas” to each of you! And Lord, give each of them grace today, too. Amen.

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Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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