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.

My Green Thumb Eats Apple Cake

Last Friday was my monthly Green Thumb meeting. This is a group of gardeners who are members of the St. Michaels Woman’s Club. We get together for informational meetings, gardening workshops and road trips. This year I am co-chairing Green Thumb with my friend, Carol, who is terrific to work with. We have some different skill sets which makes for a good partnership. Plus, she always makes me laugh which is a very good thing.

The speaker at this month’s meeting was a local floral designer, Nancy Beatty. She was showing us ways to use greens to fill our outdoor containers and window boxes. And she also demonstrated some fantastic indoor arrangements. The tillandsia (air plant) in the arrangement below acts like a bow, but it’s a tropical plant that would not tolerate outdoor freezing temps. Replace the tillandsia with a red bow, however, and this arrangement would easily transition to the winter holidays.

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Nancy lives in the country and scavenges the fields and forests near her house for plant material and interesting embellishments. She found the turkey feathers and even the deer antlers used in the arrangement below. Nancy assured us that she gets permission from her neighbors to forage in their woods. The  scrolly things are copper wire.

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An outdoor container with the summer plants removed makes a perfect foundation for a tall, sculptural arrangement that will last through the winter. The plant materials are just stuck into the potting soil. The wrought iron tower is wrapped with honeysuckle vine Nancy found in the woods. When it’s fresh, she told us it doesn’t have to be soaked. A white pine cone garland drapes the edges of the pot. She showed us how to make them with only pine cones and wire.

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We always have refreshments at our meetings and women take turns being “hostesses.” At this meeting another friend, Diane, baked an Apple Cake that was outstanding. She said I could share the recipe on my blog. I think I sent my bundt  and angel food cake pans to the thrift shop. Seems every time I do something like that I need the darn things later.

This recipe might just make it to the Thanksgiving table.

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DIANE’S APPLE CAKE**

3 c. unsifted flour                  2 ½ tsp vanilla

2 ½ c. sugar                          1 tsp baking powder

1 c. oil                                    4 large apples, thinly sliced

4 eggs                                    2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt                               4 T. Sugar

7 T. orange juice

  1. Lightly grease large angel food or bundt pan
  2. Beat together until smooth: flour, sugar, oil, eggs, salt, orange juice, vanilla & baking powder
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together apples, cinnamon and 4 T sugar
  4. Alternate layers of batter and apples in pan, beginning with batter and ending with apples
  5. Bake approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes at 350

** Also known as “Jewish Apple Cake”

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Leading up to Halloween

A couple of weeks ago we had relatives from Philadephia come down to visit. It was a lovely fall day and we went to The Crab Claw for lunch and picked crabs. We sat outside by the water watching what was going on in the harbor. It was lovely.

Our friends have an eight year old boy and I was impressed that he was was game to learn how to pick a crab. But his interest flagged and he became fascinated with the claws and how they worked. And then, because he’s an eight year old boy, he wanted to make something with the claws. Clever kid. I doubt they lasted until Halloween.

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We’ve lived in this neighborhood for eleven years. When we first moved here we got 30-40 trick or treaters in the two hour time slot allowed by the town. If you turned your porch light on kids knew they could knock at your door. I began to keep track of how many kids showed up so I’d know how many bags of candy to buy. Having those little candy bars around after Halloween is a problem for me. I swear they call my name. Mala, Mala, Mala. I know I could just throw them in the trash, but that would be only after I had picked out the kinds I liked the best.

By three years ago we had 6-10 kids and two years only four. That was way too much leftover candy. So last year we didn’t put the porch light on and we won’t again this year.

I hear from people who live in the center of St. Michaels that they get hundreds of kids. I’m not kidding. Hundreds!  I guess that’s where all our kids go now. I miss seeing the little ones, but I don’t miss that spooky voice in my head reminding me where I’ve hidden the leftover candy.

Coming Up: my adventures with leaf castings with cement.

 

 

A Braised Short Ribs Recipe

After two days of humping loads of chips to cover the paths at the St. Michaels Community Garden, I had aching muscles and was ready for an easy oven meal (fast forward to bottom of post). That’s not me in the photo. I was the photographer who was taking a break.

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Thanks goodness for morning yoga at The Studio. We’re hoping for another load today and that job will be finished for another year. My bed is still producing. Carrots, mache (a rosette of tender greens that’s fabulous in salads), and kale.

I’ve started tomato plants under grow lights, enough to share with some friends. I’m starting Amish Paste and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. So far they look great. The heat mat helped with germination.

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We’ve had a couple of cold days, cold enough in the evening to have the last fires of the season in the fireplace. And cold enough for a hearty dinner of Braised Short Ribs. This is what it looked like before three hours in the oven. Those carrots and parsley are from my Community Garden bed.

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This is what it looked like when I took it out.

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It was so good I’m including the recipe which a friend shared. Originally the recipe came from The Village Market in St. Michaels. I got my short ribs at BJ’s which recently opened by us. They were fatty and I didn’t know enough to trim them. Next time I’ll buy the short ribs from The Village Market. I’ve been told by a friend in my yoga class whose brother-in-law works at the Market that they trim their meat!

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to sprinkle over the ribs before cooking

4 lbs beef short ribs, cut into 2 inch lengths

5 tbsp olive oil

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 ½ cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juice

2 cups sliced carrots, 1/8 inch thick each

3 cups sliced onions

8 whole cloves

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

¾ cup red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

3 cups beef stock

 

Sprinkle pepper over short ribs. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or casserole. Sear ribs, browning well. Drain on paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Return half of the ribs to the casserole. Sprinkle with half of the garlic. Layer half of each vegetable over the meat. Add 4 cloves and sprinkle with half of the parsley. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of chopped parsley. In a bowl mix together vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, 1 tsp black pepper and cayenne. Pour over meat and vegetables and then add beef stock just to cover. Cover casserole, and bring to boil over medium heat. Bake in oven for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and bake for 1 ½   hours longer.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Early Christmas Gift

Yesterday I had errands to do and every time I got out of the car I was hit by the nasty cold wind. Winter had finally arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My last stop was the Bank of America. They closed their branch in St. Michaels a couple of years ago, including what I call the Magic Money Machine. It’s really inconvenient. We have to drive fifteen minutes to get cash, so we try to combine that errand with others in Easton.

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Anyway, my last errand was the bank. The woman in front of me was trying to get a check cashed. The teller told her she had to take the check to the bank where she had an account. Apparently she had already been to that bank but it wasn’t open on Saturday morning. I heard her say she couldn’t drive because of her eyes and had walked from home. When she turned to go I asked her if she wanted to wait and I would drive her to her bank and then back home. I was finished with my errands and didn’t have a pot of anything on the stove that needed tending. She demurred, not wanting to inconvenience me. I again said I’d be happy to give her a lift and reminded her how cold and windy it was outside. So she said yes.

The open branch of her bank was on the other side of town by the Walmart, so we had time to chat. By the end of the ride she had me on her prayer list for my husband’s feet and for me to be more patient. I need all the help I can get in that department.

She was a calm presence in my car for those twenty minutes – an early Christmas gift during this busy time. She thought I was helping her!

So, thank you, Betty, for accepting my offer of a ride. It was the bright spot of my morning. I know you don’t do computers, but you have my phone number. I hope I’ll hear from you because I’m sure I’ll need your prayers in the future.

The Babies Are Here

Is the Romance in the Meadow over? Our young couple now has twins. No sleep for awhile. The children – a boy and a girl – are named Mikey and Susie.They could have had more creative names, but I was not consulted. I think the boy should have been named Joaquin since he was born during the hurricane after labor was brought on by his mother lying on her back under a tractor in the rain for several days.

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The scooter is for sale. MUST SELL!

A double stroller and tricycles are the future.

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Dad is building an addition. Even so, this is a tiny house. Put it on wheels and it could be on HGTV.

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Mom has her arms full, and the dog is eclipsed.

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Where will the story go? I predict the babies will have grown to at least toddler size by Halloween and there will be trick or treaters at the door.

A Story Without Words

One of the families that lives in what I call the “long driveway houses” in our area celebrates holidays with putting up a sculpture, a scene, something evocative of the season. These can be seen from Rt 33 as one drives to Easton or toward St. Michaels. One year at Thanksgiving the turkey was wielding the hatchet and the farmer’s wife seemed to be at risk, one Christmas Santa’s sleigh complete with reindeer had collided with an antique airplane. The community has grown accustomed to seeing a scene which tells a story. This year, however, this family has outdone itself. The story has been unfolding for at least six weeks.

The first scene along MD Route 33 toward St. Michaels showed a guy sitting on a fence, reading a book. We actually thought it was a guy reading a book the first time we went by, but when we came back from town, he was still there so we knew something was happening. Of course, we didn’t know more was to come, so I didn’t stop and take photo.

Then the fence guy’s beige pick-up joined the scene and a young woman on a red scooter. A few days later an antique red roadster joined them and it looked like they were having fun. It was heading toward Labor Day so it seemed appropriate that they were grilling. I thought that was the end of the story, so I didn’t slow down to take a picture.

We saw the young woman on the scooter join the pick-up truck guy on the hood of his truck. The roadster was gone. Was romance in the air? Then a scene in which pickup truck guy is holding something out to her. A cell phone. Hell no, it’s a ring box.

A few days later we see the couple sitting on the hood of the pick-up, the gal now in a wedding dress. The sign on the truck says, “Just Married.” Of course that was the end of the story and I still hadn’t slowed down to take a picture.

But it wasn’t. A few days later we see the young couple putting up the framing of a small house. Then a piece of roof was added.

Tuesday I finally stopped to take a picture.

building-a-house---the-storYou can see the guy on the ladder and his wife nearby. I’m so annoyed with myself that I didn’t start recording this story from the beginning. A story without words. For a writer, that’s a novel idea.

It’s the story teller in me that is filling in the blanks and bringing this story to life. What I imagine will be different from every other person who drives by. The wife always wears pink. My backstory knows why.

Today on my way home from Easton the little house is complete from the outside. My husband thinks we’ll see a baby carriage next.

I’ll keep you posted if there’s more to the story. In the meantime, I’m grateful to this generous homeowner for reminding me that writing is not the only way to tell a story. He’s going to have to come up with something spectacular to top this story without words.