Women Who Do Too Much

My friend, Diane Marquette, emailed me after I told her I’d forgotten to do something important. This is what she said…

” ‘Women Who Still Do Too Much,’ like ourselves, cannot keep all the plates spinning all the time. Sometimes stuff’s gonna wobble and break. That’s why there’s glue in the junk drawer.

I appreciated the “still” in what she said. I am trying hard to pare down my commitments so I have more time to write. There are a few more things to do for the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Conference, but then more of my time will be my own. Of course, now that spring is here, the garden is calling…but I am writing every day and the plot for the third book in the Caribbean series is pulling together. I’m thinking about starting to post some excepts from the first book in the series.

Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to take our granddaughter to dinner. She was in town for an Occupational Therapy conference. She lives on the west coast and doesn’t get east very often, so we really enjoyed catching up. I love that we have the same chin! She’s a lovely young woman and we couldn’t be prouder grandparents.

Sunday afternoon I attended a meeting for volunteers at the St. Michaels Farmer’s Market. It’s an important institution in our community for those of us who care about where  are food comes from and how it’s grown or raised. I am excited to see how there can be more linkage between the St. Michaels Community Garden (one of my volunteer activities) and the Farmers Market. Many of us who grow most of our own produce supplement at the Farmers Market. I am stumped by summer squash. My zucchinis and yellow squash never survive squash borers.

Veggie signs went up on Talbot Street this weekend. This is a fun fundraiser for the Farmers Market.Other organizations do similar fund raisers. Before Valentine’s Day we have Hearts on Talbot, we have Jack Russel dog signs before the Jack Russel races at Perry Cabin, and silver stars before Christmas in St. Michaels.

 

There’s always something going on in this wonderful small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

What Happened before Wildlife in the Garage

Friday night I came home around ten from an Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting in Berlin, Maryland. I went with Laura Ambler, Betty Ann Sands and Jo Ebling. The drive is an hour and a half  from Easton (almost to Ocean City, MD) and on the way Laura was talking about the Healing Tree in Berlin that Mindie Burgoyne had told her about. Laura wanted to hug the tree. We were a little early so we parked and walked to the tree – a weirdly twisted sycamore.

healing tree and Laura

Supposedly you feel healing energy when you put your hands near the tree. Didn’t work for me or Betty Ann. Looks like it worked for Laura like a shot of vodka. Jo said she felt something.

The meeting was at The Globe in Berlin. This small town looks very interesting. Sort of like St. Michaels, MD. Lots of shops and places to eat and drink. Perhaps worth a trip back during the week. It’s probably crawling with tourists during the summer season because of its proximity to Ocean City, MD so maybe this fall.

Our speaker at the meeting was Denise Clemons who writes a food column for the Cape Gazette in the Lewes, DE area. Denise, who is a master gardener, went into the Gazette office ten years ago to pitch a garden column. She was told they had a garden columnist but their food column person was really ill and that’s what they needed. Any writer worth her salt would have said yes and that’s just what Denise did. So for ten years she’s been writing a food column which is not the same thing as a restaurant review column. She told us no one will invite her and her husband to dinner. Hey, Denise, come on over. I’m not afraid. I was taught to cook by my Iowa mother who was raised on a farm. My cooking is overlaid with a garnish of Food Network tips. My specialty is figuring out how to make something wonderful out of leftovers in the fridge. It’s kind of liked Chopped!

At this point my husband would be saying, “please come to the point. What does this have to do with wild life life in the garage?”

When I opened the garage door – not to pull in my car – the garage is full of gardening stuff, I noticed a small frog hop into the garage and go behind a bookshelf full of odds and ends. It was after ten o’clock, way past my bedtime. I wasn’t about to try and find that friggin’ frog.

That day I had finally planted by window boxes and they were under the tree waiting for Saturday’s predicted rain. I had planted most of the rest of my raised-from-seeds seedlings but there were still a few plants that I had to drag into the garage. Including that rosebush!

The next morning I noticed that one of the cells where I had planted hyacinth beans looked like it had a seed sprouting. A sprout with  two eyes? Something wasn’t right. Turns out the little frog had found a bed for the night but before I could put my palm over his temporary quarters, he jumped out and disappeared again. It was raining and the prediction was for it to continue all day. I’ll be prepared for him in the morning and try to return him (or her) to the native habitat.

In the meantime I was working on the draft of the third book in my Romantic Suspense series. Late in the afternoon when I had left the office I was sitting in the living room reading. My husband was watching the news (turned up because his hearing aids are about to quit). Suddenly I had an idea about the plot of the book I was writing. I have learned from bitter experience that I need to get up immediately and write it down because if I don’t it will probably NOT come back to me. How this new plot twist insinuated its way between a thriller novel and political talking heads astounds me, but it did. I’ll work on that, and the frog, tomorrow.

Sunday morning update: checked for frog but didn’t see any evidence it had checked into the frog motel overnight. If it’s not raining hard today I may leave the garage door open and perhaps he will leave. I don’t want to find him dried up behind the paint cans.

Monday morning update: still no frog and still raining. That rosebush may not get planted until July.

 

YOYO Dinners

It’s been a couple of weeks of day and evening meetings. I’ve only been home for dinner once. It’s just that time of year. My husband has had way too many YOYO dinners (You’re On Your Own.) By last Friday I was ready to slouch on the couch in my yoga pants and have a glass of wine in front of the fire.

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These are the Christmas treats I made for Santa’s Wonderland at Christmas in St. Michaels next weekend. This is the first time I’ve volunteered to help with the kids. I know they will be adorable. Then I thought about those runny noses. I don’t have a lot of interaction with little children any more so we don’t get the twenty-four hour flu that used to rampage through our family or the upper respiratory viruses that turned us all into mouth breathers. Oh, well, too late now. I’d probably scare the little darlings if I wore a face mask.

These no-bake “cookies” were  easy. Put a pretzel round on a baking sheet. I used a sheet pan with sides because the rounds are slippery. I didn’t want the batch to end up on the floor. Put a Hershey’s kiss (unwrapped) on each pretzel and put in a 350 degree oven for 2 minutes. Take them out and push an m&m into each soft kiss.

There was no room in my fridge so I cooled mine in the garage and then bagged them in the cello bags and tied them up with red ribbons. Very festive. I might do a gluten free version of this with a gluten free pretzel although, truth be told, neither one of us needs the calories. Unwrapping the kisses and sorting out the red and green m&ms took the most time. This would be a fun project if you have young children or grandchildren.

One of the nights out was my Working Writers Forum. Another night out was an Eastern Shore Writers Association Board meeting. Tonight it’s a meeting of the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference group so another YOYO dinner for the husband. Thank goodness he doesn’t mind leftovers.

Last Thursday was our dining out group – five couples who dine together once a month.. We had dinner at Scossa in Easton. We love that restaurant. One of our group had brought flashing Rudolph noses for the guys and Santa ear headbands for the gals. I never want to grow up. Wednesday night we are having a gathering of writers at our house. I might just wear that flashing Rudolph nose.

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I’m Glad I Went

Last Night

Last night it was cool and my husband had built a cozy fire. But I’d raised my hand to substitute for someone on the Eastern Shore Writers Association Education Fund board at the Talbot Arts Council presentation of grants. Why had I done that? I’m old enough to know I need to sit on my hands when they want to rise of their own volition.

I’d been told the event started at five, but when I got there that meant wine and cheese with things actually starting at 5:30. For introverts like me standing around a milling group of strangers is on par with a root canal, but I saw some people I knew.

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Marianne Stallsmith (in green) was there with her husband, Stan. They were there because their art gallery in St. Michaels, Local Port of Art, had gotten a grant. It’s next to their store, The Candleberry Shoppe. I also ran into a woman I went to graduate school with. Jo Merrill was there to get a grant for the St. Michaels Art League. She didn’t have anyone else to talk to either, so we sat together.

Promptly at 6:30 the program began. The auditorium at the Academy Art Museum in Easton was full. The program listed all the grant recipients – all fifty-six of them. I was in for a long night and thought longingly of the cozy fire and the glass of red wine I’d passed on.

The first to be honored were three teenage girls who’d gotten grants to attend arts or music programs last summer. To my surprise, there was Hannah Zerai. I’ve sponsored Hannah at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference the last two years and will again next March. I met Hannah when she auditioned for the play Laura Ambler and I wrote, The Santa Diaries. When we heard her sing we knew she needed to be featured with a solo. She has an amazing voice and last summer a grant enabled her to study musical theatre at the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City. The next young woman was Summer Snead, a junior at Easton High School. Summer was also in the cast of The Santa Diaries, and I’ve watched her musical career bloom on FaceBook. Last summer Summer went to New York and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She said that’s where she’ll attend college. Suddenly I was really glad I’d come to this event.

Talbot Arts Council did an amazing job of awarding the checks. Groups of people were called to the front, envelopes handed to us as we approached, a photographer from the Star Democrat, our local paper, took group pictures and we went back to our seats where I put my envelope in my purse. The whole thing was over in 45 minutes and I was back at home by 8pm, really glad I’d been asked to sub. I knew about the Talbot Arts Council, but I had no idea of all the things they’ve helped happen in Talbot County. Much of their support goes to schools so kids are exposed to art and music at a time when many of those programs aren’t as robust as they were in the past.

This morning I pulled out the envelope out of my purse and opened it. The letter inside was addressed to The Chesapeake Film Festival. I pulled the envelope out of the trash and it also said Chesapeake Film Festival.  I called the Talbot Arts Council office this morning to get it straightened out. I expect the Film Festival people got the letter and check for the Eastern Shore Writers Association. It will get mailed to the proper ESWA person.

Today

Today I’m working on the Eastern Shore Writing Association Member Directory. In the past it’s been a printed document. This year it’s going to be in a digital format to save printing costs. It will also allow us to reissue it quarterly with new member updates. I was working in the new Microsoft Word that’s part of Office 350. A bit of a learning curve, but I’m figuring it out. My friend, and fellow ESWA board member, Jo Ebling came on Tuesday night to show me how to do it. That was enormously helpful.

I’ve been tasked by the ESWA board with buying a copy of Microsoft Office 350 for ESWA. They have a great deal for nonprofits. But getting it isn’t so easy. It’s sold through “partners” who have to call you. Twice now I’ve asked to be called and nothing has happened. When you call the number on the Office 350 sales page you can get a helpful person. Then…nothing happens. So that’s on the docket for this afternoon. The next board meeting is the first week in December and I’d like to report that I’d accomplished my assignment. I bought a copy for my personal use so I’d be familiar working with it, but need the “official” copy for ESWA.

How is my writing a novel in a month going? Don’t ask. Eastern Shore Writers Association is taking all of my time right now.

Tonight I’m having dinner with Laura and another friend. It’s our monthly book club meeting. We go to dinner, have a glass of wine, and share the new books we’ve read. This is going to be fun.

 

Visioning a Writers Group

Mindie Burgoyne is the new President of the Eastern Shore Writers Association. Both Laura and I are very involved and we are thrilled to have Mindie at the helm. This writers’ group is thirty years old this year and in the past year, under the stewardship of Jerry Sweeney, has grown. However, it is time to take stock and make sure the association’s projects reflect the member’s wishes. Most writers are introverts who work alone. I’m lucky that most of my writing is done with Laura, but people who write with a partner are few and far between. They need the community of a writers organization to keep them informed and motivated.

wind turbineOn Saturday, at Chesapeake College in a new building by the wind turbine, Mindie held a Visioning meeting which was open to the membership. About twenty-five people attended. That’s not bad for a group that is geographically spread throughout Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. In fact, that was one of the things we discussed. How can we serve members who are far away from where most events are held? We came up with some ideas to explore.

Mindie had created a survey on Survey Monkey to ask questions of the membership. Eighty people responded out of about 250 members. That’s a decent sample which gave us an idea of what’s important to members.

Clearly the new ESWA board will need to focus and some projects may be eliminated. That ongoing evaluation is an important part of growth and change in any organization. Both Laura and I are on the new board and we were excited and energized by the visioning process. Our first board meeting is tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to it.

Tomatoes and Tunes

The Roma tomatoes at my raised bed in the St. Michaels Community Garden are going to town. That bed gets more sun than my raised beds at home, so I planted eight seedlings. I’m beginning to think that was a couple too many.  IMG_0264

This is the fourth time I’ve had a sinkful of tomatoes that needed to get cooked down into sauce and put through the hot water bath canner. I now have twenty-five pints of thick tomato sauce seasoned with Fish peppers, basil, thyme, and oregano (all from my garden) and there’s only two of us. I think tomatoes are going to start going to the food pantry. Plan B would be to keep canning tomato sauce and not plant any tomatoes next year.

Saturday night we took advantage of a free concert in Easton – Amy Black and Sarah Borges singing the music of Muscle Shoals. It was hot, but the Eastern Shore humidity was down and the sun was behind the buildings on the west side of Harrison Street.

IMG_0278It was a rockin’ concert that had people up and dancing in the street, including some wee ones who already had amazing moves. If I’d been closer I would have caught a video on my phone. Laura was slammed with logistics for the new DOD contract or she would have been there with her husband.

We are lucky to live in an area where the arts are so encouraged and appreciated. The concert was sponsored by The Avalon Foundation and the Tidewater Hotel. Harrison Street was full from Dover to Goldsborough.

This next week work begins the task of pulling together information for the speakers at for the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference website. And Eastern Shore Writers Association  member renewals are coming in. I put together the information that goes into the member directory and update the database. August and September are going to be busy. The tomatoes should be finished soon. Thank goodness!

Paris and Back

I’m back from ten days in Paris with my husband and a Montana granddaughter. We saw all the sights. The Eiffel Tower at night from a river cruise…

Eiffel tower at night

We took a cooking class. That’s Chef Constance in the red apron. We went to the markets, bought fresh ingredients, came back to cook and then ate the best meal we had in Paris. I learned I’d never cooked mushrooms properly.

Ellen cooking

We walked and walked and walked. Took the subway and rode buses. My FitBit was still on East Coast time, but clocked one day at over nine miles. The granddaughter got oriented right away and after two days I think we could have turned her loose and she would have found her way back to the hotel.

We love Paris, despite the drama two years ago when Roger’s leg was broken in the subway and he had to have emergency surgery. It was so much fun to introduce the City of Lights to our granddaughter. She’ll go back at some point and explore. We were thrilled to be able to open that door for her.

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Now that I’m home there are things to accomplish.

While I was gone both Laura and I both were elected to the board of Eastern Shore Writers Association. We had lunch last Thursday with the incoming President, Mindie Burgoyne, to plan strategy. The Association needs to revisit what it’s members want it to be. That process will begin in July. I am the new Parlimentarian. Robert’s Rules of Order is on its way from Amazon. Laura is the new Secretary.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference plans continue. We have most of the speakers lined up but need commitments from a few more. Then work on the website begins. Registration for the early March conference begins in October. We always sell out and have a long waiting list.

I’m involved in the annual summer Membership drive for the Eastern Shore Writers Association. There are labels to make from the database for the renewal letters which go out in mid July. Then work begins on the Member Directory as the renewals come in.

Laura and I are planning to publish our screenplays (and one play) on Kindle. I was working on the formatting before this trip. We need to decide on a strategy. All of them at once? One a week? And, of course, how to let the world know they’re out there.

We’ve had lots of rain and the helicopters from our six maple trees are sprouting endlessly. If I wasn’t pulling up the baby trees, our lot would be totally overgrown in a couple of years. When I get over my jet lag and am feeling less like I barely survived the Zombie apocalypse, I’ll spend some time every day pulling weeds.

My bed at the St. Michaels Community Garden is doing well. Eight Roma tomato plants and a couple of rows of beans. That bed gets more sun than my raised beds at home, although I have tomatoes here as well. I’ve already eaten a few Sungold cherry tomatoes and have fruit on all the other tomato plants – the heirloom Nebraska Wedding plants I raised from seed and the Costoluto Fiorentino given to me by a yoga class friend. She had been in Italy and said there were only two kinds of tomatoes in the markets. Romas (paste tomatoes) and these ridged Costolutos. She tracked down seeds, started them and I was a lucky recipient. Canning tomato sauce will begin by the end of July.

For now, between ticking off the list, I’m trying to keep up the walking. Those croissants are going to take their toll if I don’t. Paris was wonderful, but it’s good to be home.