November 30, 2011

Everyone else seems to be enjoying the Christmas season but you.

You’re on the road.


* Ready to be where it at least feels like home?

* Ready for some of your favorite Christmas cookies?

* Want quiet and privacy, (with a guarantee that the innkeeper will know that you’re exhausted and just want to be alone in your room?)

* Want to determine your own breakfast time, no matter how early or how late, or have it TO GO?

* Would you just love to have your favorite kind of breakfast? Large & lovely? Or small & simple?

* Do you have other requests? That’s just fine:




A Christmas Welcome

November 30, 2011

What are your favorite Christmas cookies? Let us know and you’ll smell them as soon as you walk through our front door!

My favorites were Spritz when I was little. First, it was the green ones which my mother flavored with almond extract, and then it was the white vanilla ones. I loved her Butterfudge Fingers, a recipe she tried one day when we were in town with Daddy on a Saturday and it was the aroma that met us as soon as we walked into our front door: a brownie bottom, white creamy layer, topped with a thin fudge layer and garnished with nuts. Bon-bon cookies were ones she always made for my Aunt Hilda’s United Methodist Women’s annual Christmas party, but they were more labor-intensive so we didn’t get but one of those. Russian tea cakes with black walnuts were Aunt Bernice’s favorites, and they became mine eventually, but probably just because they were her’s. My mother filled can after can of them and stored them in Aunt Bernice’s room because it was cooler in there. I ate the dough when she turned her head, I snuck into Aunt Bernice’s room to eat them under the bed; I ate them whenever I got half a chance. I made Aunt Hilda’s UMW cookies after my mother died, and I made them for my own family and for gifts to others. And now I make them for our guests. …What kind did you say were your favorites??

“The best presents are the ones you don’t expect.”*

November 28, 2011

The speaking, the sprinkling and the praying were finished and Jose was officially baptized. The men up front began hugging him, one at a time, and I had to smile at the man hugs that were being exchanged. You know those: one hand just behind the shoulder, the other hand giving 3 quick pats as the 2 guys lean into one another. I guess about 3 young guys greeted and welcomed Jose in that way, and there was a general warmth and nice-ness about it. But then white-haired George, the last to approach Jose, began to step towards him, raising and spreading both arms at his sides, palms upturned in a sort of a question mark, asking permission but with a winsome welcome at the same time. George’s head was tilted slightly left, his face was glowing and his smile was as wide as his head. The two men hugged. And I was undone. A gift that I hadn’t expected. “If ever there was a magic moment,…this [was] it.”*

I recalled another such unexpected present at the memorial service that we attended today, and took my turn telling about it. Audrey, a neighbor just up the street, had been an invalid for the last several years of her life and there was a day when Maria had called to see if I could help give Audrey a bath. She hadn’t had one for two months (yes, 2 months!) and she was dying to have one. (I didn’t doubt that.) Well, I had no clue how to do that, but I said, “Sure.” (Good heavens, how could I not?) So David and some other neighbors helped to get her to our house and we met in our downstairs bathroom to give it a go. It’s not everyone who can pull off a shared experience like this with class, but Audrey did. We laughed, no, we actually howled together, as I clumsily dropped the shower head and caused the water to rain down on us from the ceiling–water was everywhere–and we were both soaked. We were a sight, the dripping pair of us. But “if ever there was a magic moment, …this [was] it.”*

Nancy, our around-the-corner neighbor, always seems to find the best stuff. Last night she handed me a children’s book to borrow and so I read it in the car this morning: *The Carpenter’s Gift, A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree, David Rubel, ill. by Jim LeMarche.

One day in 1931–actually, the day before Christmas…
It had been the best day that Henry could remember, and
he didn’t want it to end. He stood before the decorated
tree, enchanted. The streetlamps had just come on, and
the tin cans glittered in their light. If ever there was
a magic moment,
Henry thought, this is it…

Nancy bought her copy downtown at The Compleat Bookseller. Maybe there’s someone you might like to surprise. After all, “the best presents are the ones you don’t expect.”

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

November 22, 2011

The last time David and I went away, I did two of my favorite things while he attended meetings: I walked several miles and I read a book. While at home, in between other responsibilities and interests, I do these same things, and have been working on a 600 page book the past couple of weeks. I finished it, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, this morning. It was too long and I gave too much of my life to it not to preserve a piece of it somewhere, and after failing at posting a doc on our high school book chat group’s facebook page TWICE, I decided that this needed to be where it was going to happen.

Each reader enters into any story from his own perspectives, stories and experiences–with his own reasons–and I started this journey because our daughter loved the book and I wanted to share it with her. So it was commitment, but also curiosity, that saw me through to the end.

It was a strange, surreal tale that was threaded through with confusion but there was also a subtle strength and tender tenacity that carried Toru, the husband and main character, through to an ending filled with hope and beauty. The words of Kumiko, his wife, (who had left him), follow.

If it hadn’t been for you, I would have lost my mind long ago. I would have handed myself over, vacant, to someone else and fallen to a point beyond hope of recovery…..

The freedom to do anything at all was taken from me, and I shut myself up in a dark room, alone. No one chained me down or set a guard to watch over me, but I could not have escaped. My brother held me with yet stronger chains and guards–chains and guards that were myself. I was the chain that bit into my ankle, and I was the ruthless guard that never slept. Inside me, of course, there was a self that wanted to escape, but at the same time there was a cowardly, debauched self that had given up all hope of ever being able to flee from there, and the first self could never dominate the second…I had defiled myself irreparably.

…my brother…may have opened some kind of drawer inside me, taken out some kind of incomprehensible something….My brother had that kind of power, and as much as I hate to acknowledge it, the two of us were surely tied together in some dark place.

…I had…defiled myself beyond all cleansing….In spite of all this,…I was never able to feel at the time that I was wronging you in any way. What I was doing seemed entirely natural to me–though I can only imagine that it was not the real me that felt that way. Could this be true, though? Is the answer really so simple? And if so, what, then, is the real me?

I often used to dream of you–vivid dreams with clear-cut stories. In these dreams, you were always searching desperately for me. We were in a kind of labyrinth, and you would come almost up to where I was standing. ‘Take one more step! I’m right here!’ I wanted to shout, and if only you would find me and take me in your arms, the nightmare woud end and everything would go back to the way it was. But I was never able to produce that shout. And you would miss me in the darkness and go straight ahead past me and disappear. It was always like that. But still, those dreams helped and encouraged me. At least I still had the power to dream, I knew. My brother couldn’t prevent me from doing that. I was able to sense that you were doing everything in your power to draw nearer to me. Maybe someday you would find me, and hold me, and sweep away the filth that was clinging to me, and take me away from that place forever. Maybe you would smash the curse and set the seal so that the real me would never have to leave again. That was how I was able to keep a tiny flame of hope alive in that cold, dark place with no exit–how I was able to preserve the slightest remnant of my own voice.(pp 602-603)

Toru did search for Kumiko, and he did find her. And for me, the picture at the end of the story of Toru’s pursuing one whom he loved was reminiscent of another sweet, old story. He was rejected, but was one whose desperate devotion to another (even one who saw herself as without worth), filled the ending with a lightness and a loveliness that lingered past the last page, and I didn’t want it to end. That is something that never fails to move me. I hope it’s always that way.

A Festival Special For A Special Festival

November 16, 2011

Chestertown’s annual Festival of Trees is coming soon — to its traditional time slot of Thanksgiving Weekend, so we’re entering into the spirit of the season by offering a special Special!

Bring friends or family and come to Chestertown for the season’s kick-off on Sat, Nov 26.  Stay the night and we’ll give you each room (4 people total, but it would also be great for a couple of friends, too–or an outing for 2 sisters, for instance) for $ 89*! 

(There’s also a show at our theatre downtown:  “It’s a Wonderful Life!” on Sat night!)

Check out my November 2010 blog archives for a few pictures from last year.  We had a Simply Bed & Bread tree at the 2010 Festival, complete with a grammy doll “sleeping” in a cradle beneath the tree, (but that was a one shot spot for us.  I had a ball doing it once, but more would be, well….not so much.)  So this year I’ll go to enjoy, and to remember…

It was always a tradition with our girls when they were little.  It seemed more like a girl thing, something that didn’t excite David very much, so we three would set out and walk downtown to the former Festival location, to see what we could see.  There was tea, cookies, and tree after tree; lights and sparkles – a twinkling “sea!” Sometimes we went when a small group of carolers sang, and we would ooh and aah and cast our vote for free, and this year’s Festival promises more of the same.  In its new location at Kent Center just off of 213 N, in between the 2 shopping centers, Carol, one of the Soroptomist organizers, told me on the phone this morning that the girl scouts were busy with their gingerbread houses, a duo called “2 Cups of Decaf” was performing on Sunday at 1:30, that there were new participants planning new trees, and well, it’s a Chestertown tradition and you just won’t want to miss.  (And by the way, we’ll have tree-shaped cookies here, too, and decorated donuts with red and green….)  It would be a season start that was quiet and lovely, with an away-from-the-commercialism feel to it.  Got grandchildren?  New tradition?  Maybe.

* + 11% tax

“Georgie’s Spot”

November 7, 2011


Our most recent review makes reference to a sort of secret spot where one can sit in solitude, soaking in nature’s sounds — the honking of geese, the pond’s hushed lapping against its edges and the sounds of leaves rustling.  It’s in the place that Lisie used to call “Georgie’s Spot.”

Before her death, and early-ish in her Alzheimer’s journey, I was privileged to make daily weekday visits to Lisie to check on her and to keep her company for about an hour each time.  Sometimes we would drive out to visit George, her deceased husband, who was buried in the cemetery at Old St. Paul’s — the same burial location of Talullah Bankhead, one of our local claims to fame.  It’s a peaceful place, as one would expect to find in the company of the dead, and each time we visited, I felt as though I had both traveled back in time–as I listened to Lisie repeat some of her favorite Georgie memories–but also been in a place where time stood still.  It was so special there, especially with Lisie, that it has become a secret destination that we like to share with our guests who might be looking for an out-the-way, off the beaten path place to eat lunch, or to just hang out for a while.  I haven’t been recently, but I’m guessing that it’s exploding with color right about now, and worth a trip.  So if you’re in town, or in the area with just a little extra time on your hands, check it out, especially if you’re traveling to Rock Hall.  It’s off the road a bit — off of Rt 20.  Look for the 1700 – 1800’ish Episcopal church sign in the midst of the trees.  Go past the church to the water.  Get out of your car and walk around, then sit and see what you can see.  If you have an hour, I bet your stop will make you feel like it’s been several.  It’s a gorgeous time of the year; don’t miss it.

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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