Monthly Archives: July 2013

July Creative Challenge, day 31: RELAX — St. Michaels

[I’m taking this challenge seriously. First I’m RELAXing a bit on this last day of the July Creative Challenges by recycling and revising an article I did for AtHomeInMaryland.com an online travel magazine that has sadly gone away. Since the article is all about RELAXing and having fun in St. Michaels I thought it fit the challenge pretty well… Here goes…]

Take a walk on the relaxing streets of St. Michaels.

Take a walk on the relaxing streets of St. Michaels.

St. Michaels is a place of history, water, crabs, but above all St. Michael’s is a place to relax.

Finding a home on the river…

The little sea fairing town was built around St. Michaels Episcopal Church which was established in 1677. It was a trading post for farmers and trappers. James Braddock, an English land agent purchased 20 acres in 1778. An early real estate developer, Braddock carved 58 plots out of the land and arranged them around a town green. Along with the houses he included churches, a market and schools. Since the town is on the water fishing and shipbuilding became natural industries. By 1812 a half-dozen firms were building schooners to sail the Chesapeake.
It became the “Town That Fooled the British” in the War of 1812. The English fleet was barreling its way up the Chesapeake Bay headed to Baltimore. St. Michaels, with its shipping industry was a clear target for destruction. But in the wee hours of August 10, 1813 as the fleet approached the town’s residents hoisted lanterns into ship’s rigging and high into the tree tops, and the British cannons overshot the town. Only one house took a direct hit. A cannonball crashed through the roof, frightening, but not harming the inhabitants as it rolled down the stairs. That house still stands on Mulberry Street, it is aptly named the “Cannonball House.”
Over the next 150 years St. Michaels became one of the major seafood processing centers on the Bay. By 1930 a single processing plant was shipping more than a million pounds of crab meat annually, and 12,000 gallons of oysters a week! But, by the mid 20th century the seemingly boundless harvest of seafood began quickly, to dry up and St. Michaels long history as the “seafood basket” of the Chesapeake was coming to an end.
With the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1965 the city turned full-time to tourism as a way of life. St. Michaels beautiful colonial and Victorian homes refashioned themselves as bed and breakfasts, feed stores and tack shops were converted to boutiques and restaurants, and skipjack captains turned from dredging crustaceans to hosting sunset cruises.

Interior of one of the boat barns at the Maritime Museum

Interior of one of the boat barns at the Maritime Museum

Lots to see and do around town…

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum offers 12 buildings and sits on 18 acres at old Naval Point in St. Michaels Harbor.
The Hooper Strait Lighthouse is the iconic center piece of the museum.  Built in 1879 the hexagonal lighthouse guarded the wicked shoals near Deals Island. It was accessible only by rowboat then, and the keepers spent months alone on the water tending the 4th level Fresnel lense and keeping weather and vessel records at the “screw pile” lighthouse. But by 1954 the lighthouse was fully automated and the Coast Guard began dismantling the old style lighthouses.. The Hooper Straight house was on the list for demo! Luckily the fledgling Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was able to purchase it for $1,000 and barge is North to St. Michaels. Today it sits safely on the tip of Naval Point, one of four screw pile designed lighthouses left on the Bay. Visitors can climb into the lighthouse and take a self paced tour of the interior, including the keeper’s quarters and the light, and get a birds eye view of the harbor from the catwalk.  The Museum offers a Lighthouse Overnight program for small groups of kids 8-12.
At the “Oystering on the Chesapeake” building visitors board the E.C. Collier and listen in as her long time crew brings in the harvest. Dozens of hands-on, kid friendly displays take you through the history and conflicts of the oystering industry and lets you see how Maryland’s favorite mollusk went from the Bay’s bottom to a restaurant’s table top.
At the museum’s boat yard you can watch as skipjacks and crab dredgers are restored to new life. If you are itching to get out on the water you can take a tour on the Mister Jim. If you want a more hands on approach, the Museum’s Apprentice For A Day program is a unique opportunity to help build traditional wooden skiffs. The museum is open daily year-round (except Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s day).

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Canon at St. Mary’s Square

St. Mary’s Square lies just to the south of St. Michaels Harbor. See cannons, one of which defended the city in during the War of 1812, and the Mechanic’s Bell that ruled the shipbuilder’s day by ringing at 7am, noon and 5 pm. St. Mary’s Square Museum host historic exhibits centered on the town of St. Michaels. The Museum is open weekends from May to October, Guided walking tours are available at the corner of Chestnut street and St. Mary’s Square on Saturdays beginning at 10:30 am. The tours alternate between “Young Frederick Douglas in St. Michaels” and “Historic St. Michaels Waterfront”. Reservations are required for a docent tour, call 410-745-0530. A Self-Guided walking tour map is also available at the St. Mary’s Museum.

Get out on the water! Go down to St. Michaels’ dock or drive over to nearby Tilghman Island for some water action.  Get up close and personal with some wild life, including osprey and bald eagles, with Peake Paddle Tours. Tours range from freshwater streams, to tidal rivers, to salt marshes all over the Eastern Shore, and skill levels start at beginner. Chesapeake Lights offers a variety of Lighthouse tours on the Bay.  Captain Mike Richards sales the motorized M/V Sharps Island out of Tilghman Island. A 10 hour, 10 lighthouse tour is scheduled for July 24th. The skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark, a National Historic Landmark, also sales out of Tilghman’s.  Captain Wade Murphy, Jr. is a 5th generation Chesapeake Bay waterman, and along with a beautiful ride you’ll get a history and science lesson on the Bay. The beautiful canoe-sterned ketch the Lady Patty is berthed in front of the Bay Hundred Restaurant in Tilghman Island and sets sail three times a day for 2 hour cruises including a romantic Champagne Sunset Cruise at 6:30.  The Salina II, a vintage catboat hosts private sailing lessons and 2 hr cruises for six. You can also take a Wine or Beer Tasting cruise or even an Overnight Excursion on the Selina II which docks at St. Michaels.

Sailing on the Bay

Sailing on the Bay. We took a twi-light cruise on the Rebecca T. Ruark which I found both educational and relaxing. This shot if of another vessel as the sun set to the left.

Spending the night…

There are over 25 Bed and Breakfast establishments in the St. Michaels area, so there’s plenty of variety in cost, location and luxury.

Dr. Dodson’s House at 200 Cherry Street began life as a tavern and the town’s first post office in 1799. Fredrick Douglas visited the house after the Civil War to meet with his former master, Captain Thomas Auld. Much of the house still maintains a historic flavor with original fireplaces, woodwork and glass. The house, which is on the St. Mary’s Square Museum walking tour, remains one of the finest examples of Federal architecture in town. It was brought to new life as a Bed and Breakfast after a bit of modernization (read: Air Conditioning and WiFi). The full breakfast is an “Event” from the eggs benedict, to the fresh tomato tarts, to the banana pecan waffles. You won’t leave the table hungry.

For Victorian charm try the Cherry Street Inn. This 1880’s house built by a steamboat captain has been lovingly maintained. The Inn is an easy walk to the harbor, The Chesapeake Maritime Museum and the shops and eateries on Main Street (Talbot Street).

Five Gables Inn and Spa offers a number of packages for the ultimate escape to the Bay. The signature Spa and Sail package includes two nights at one of their charming Main Street locations, two massages at the on site Aveda Spa, crab dinner for two at the Crab Claw Restaurant, and a two-hour cruise on the Rebecca T. Ruark. Other packages range from a one night champagne and chocolate get away to a four night “Learn to Sail” program that includes three private sailing lessons followed by massages. Five Gables is in the heart of St. Michaels, it is nestled among the Main Street Antique shops and is an easy walk to the harbor and the Maritime Museum. The Five Gables offers 12 rooms and 8 suites and an extended continental breakfast.

The iconic Hooper Light House at St. Michaels.

The iconic Hooper Light House at St. Michaels.

  • re-enactments,
  • boat rides,
  • cannon firings,
  • a Talbot Street parade,
  • horse-drawn carriage rides,
  • an Art show
  • and more.

If you stay an extra day you can enjoy the 4 th Annual Watermen’s Appreciation Day and Crab Feast.

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July Creative Challenge, Day 30: LATE

[ViewfromtheSide suggested “LATE” as her writing prompt over the weekend. Here’s my entry. Unlike the macro story that Maggie and I wrote over six installments for Topsy-Turvy, today I’m going to try to keep it under 1,000 words. This is a actually a scene from a novel I’m working on. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more.]

Marn sat in front of the telecom monitor. She adjusted her headdress. It wasn’t that she cared what she looked like for the man with whom she was about to communicate — or so she told herself — but she WAS the defacto spokesperson for the Brethern. She did have a certain image that she had to keep up.

She gave a clandestine look at her reflection in the window.

It had been 12 years since she had last spoken Tet. She had been younger and prettier then. And, of course, she’d been dressed more simply. Frankly, she hardly recognized herself under all these layers of elaborate clothing. It was all very symbolic, and very stylish, and very modest, but somehow it was very her. Most days, in front of most people, that was fine, but, now, as she was about to see Tet for the first time in over a decade, she felt like a bit of a fraud.

She took a deep breath and meditated as she let it out. ‘Spirit flow to me. Spirit flow in me. Spirit flow through me to others.’ She thought the words of the old chant, but she no longer said them out loud.

It worked. She calmed.

But it wasn’t a sense of Spirit that she needed for this interview. Marn would put aside her natural empathic tendencies for the next 5 to 15 minutes. She’d suppress the characteristic charm and easy smile that made her such a natural mouthpiece for the group.

She wasn’t here to play nice. She needed to channel the authority and leadership of Lonas and Girki, and the frankness of Uci.  She needed to be firm with Tet. But she needed to keep the anger so often displayed by Vetis  in check.

Not that they weren’t all angry with Tet. But she couldn’t let that old wound derail her today.

She would keep to the script.  She would be professional and detached. He deserved nothing more.

There was commotion on the other side of the telecom. A muffled off camera a conversation confirmed that the up  link was already active and that the Brethern representative was on waiting on the other end.

“How long?” Tet’s voice asked — still off camera — as he clipped on the microphone.

“About 5 minutes.” An unseen voice told him. A second later he sank into the seat in front of his own telecom monitor 1200 miles away.

He looked older, certainly,… more worn… Like some one had taken a photo of his sweet, earnest 24-year-old face and had run it through a copier 100 times. Each time he’d lost a little of his youth, his softness, his innocence. Perhaps 7 years in prison does that to a person.

“I’m sorry I’m late there was an emergen — ” His chagrined face broke into a surprised smile when he saw who was on the other side of the communication link. “Hey.”

“Good afternoon, Tet.” She struggled not to smile back, but there was genuine enthusiasm in his smile, his eyes. That disarmed her.

“I thought it would be Lonas.” He told her. For the last two years he’d written the Brethern once a month with a formal request to be allowed back into the capital to visit the Shrine of the Prophet. And every month he had a standing phone call with a representative from the group to tell him no. The last 23 times that had been a very grumpy Lonas.

“Lonas has other obligations today.” She said simply. “So you have me.”

Tet ignored / forgot that their communication was sure to be monitored and recorded. “Marn.” He said gently, warmly, FRIEND-LY, “It’s so good to see you.”

“Yes, well.” She sputtered. “Do you wish to re-schedule?”

“Um.” He gave her a confused look. “No, sorry, why would –”

“Because of your emergency. Do you wish to re-schedule so you can attend to your emergency?”

The question lacked emotion or — quite uncharacteristically for her — empathy.

Tet sobered. Of course… he might be glad to see her, but why would the feeling be mutual. “No.” His smile was gone. “It’s taken care of.”

She looked at her notes. “Shall we get to it then.”

All the wind was out of his sails. He kicked himself for letting his surprise end run his emotions. “Yes.”

“The Brethern thanks you for your renewed request and regretfully –”

“Please” He held up a hand against the monitor.

She stopped and steeled herself. “The decision has been made, Tet.” She said firmly.

“I know…I’m not trying to get you change your mind.” He looked away from the monitor and took a breath.

She could see his lips move as he said a calming mantra.  When he looked back at the monitor it was with resignation. “Yeah, sorry, I just didn’t want to hear it coming from you.” He said, broken.

Despite herself Marn felt a wave of compassion flow through her.

She considered her ex-friend. “Why do you even want to come back to the Capital?’

He tightened and shook his head.  “I don’t want to anger you.”

“Tell me.”  She insisted.

He looked down at the table. “I had a dream. The Prophet called me back to the city. He called me to the tomb, the shrine. ”

“You had a dream two years ago and you keep asking every month?”

Tet lifted his eyes to hers and shook his head. “I have that dream every night.”

There was a brief staring match that ended when Marn scratched something out on her notes. “I can’t give you permission to come to the Capital on an official Brethern visit.”

He swallowed, defeated. “O.K.”

She sighed,  she had utterly failed at her mission in this telecom call. “But I can invite you to the Capital for a personal visit to see me.”

Tet wiped at his eyes. “O.K.”


Muffin Monday: Beet & Fennel Muffins

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I know, I know… it sounds like I should be making soup, not muffins, but this combination of special ingredients when paired with our old friends  Zucchini, Almond and  Blueberry made for a nice flavor profile in this week’s Muffin Monday selection.

INGREDIENTS:

  •  1 1/2 cup whole wheat Flour
  • 3/4 cup whole Almonds
  • 1 TBSP Baking Power
  • 1 cup Non Fat Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Stick MELTED Butter
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Grated Beets
  • 1 cup Grated Zucchini
  • 1/3 cup chopped Fennel Fronds
  • 2/3 cup slightly mashed Blueberries.

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DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the muffin cups by spraying with cooking spray.

2. Grate the Beets and Zucchini. Finely chop the Fennel Fronds.  Gently mash the Blueberries with a fork. Set aside.

3. In a blender process the Almonds until they are finely ground..

4. In a large bowl combine the Flour, ground Almonds and Baking Powder.

5. In the blender (because why dirty another bowl when you’re gonna have to clean that blender anyway) pour the Milk, Vanilla, Eggs, melted Butter and Sugar. Blend until smooth.

6. Add the liquid to the dry and mix well.

7. Gently fold the chopped/grated vegetables and the mashed Blueberries into the batter.

8. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups (this recipe made enough batter to generously fill the standard 12 muffin tin plus two  extra muffin cups).

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9. Bake for 35 minutes until the tops are brown and the muffins pass the toothpick test. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes.

The blueberries and sugar give these veggie intense muffins plenty of sweetness. Tester Maggie S. calls them “Delicious and filling.” There’s a nice firm muffin top and the inside is flaky and light. The texture, says Maggie, is “Perfect.”  Fellow tester Andrew S. agreed, he loved the texture. As for the taste? “The aftertaste was interesting” he said, ” — kind of savory after the sweetness of the berries. And” he added “zucchini is always a good thing.”

Beets, like zucchini, seem to lose themselves in the delightfulness of muffindom. None of us could really point to the muffins and say “Hey, you put beets in there, didn’t you?” The muffins just taste yummy. As for the fennel there is a hint of fennel’s licorice flavor, but it is far from overwhelming.

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Want more Muffin Monday recipes? Go to the Search field at the top of the blog and type in ‘Muffin Monday.’

 


July Creative Challenge: Topsy-Turvey (Final Installment!)

[Thanks to everyone who has been following along on this long co-operative story. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the conclusion TODAY!!! If you need a refresher please go back and re-read PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4 and Part 5.]

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Rock rose in twisted shapes above them. The whole mountain looked as if it had been a giant black candle, melted down to a series of drips at its base. Jeffry could see clouds before the pointed tops of those drips.

“What now?” he asked Mary-Kate, who was tucking the crochet hook into it’s sheaf beside her. His voice was less exasperated than resigned.

“We climb.” she handed him a pair of long poles with very sharp ends. They didn’t need them for the first mile or so, but by the second mile the path of the mountain had grown steep, and by the third mile the climb was almost vertical. They didn’t speak.

Jeffry started to feel tired, and he began to ponder the events of the past day. What on earth was happening to him? Yesterday morning, less than twenty-four hours earlier, he had been a cowherd in a sheep town and he had been counting his luck to get up with enough time to make a breakfast sandwich before his bigger brothers could take all the bread. What had they said when he didn’t come home last night? Had they said anything? Had they gone looking for him?

Not that it would matter. They’d never find him here — wherever here was. He could only hope that Mary-Kate had a plan to catch up with the others (preferably a plan that didn’t involve more mountains.)

They reached a small platform halfway up the mountain where the waxy rock had melted flat for a few yards wide and a few feet deep.

To his surprise Mary-Kate reached out to the stone side and knocked. A door opened — though no door had been visible before — and she stepped inside. Jeffry followed.

They were on a small platform, identical in dimensions to the one outside the door. But now they were inside the mountain. A set of stairs led from the platform down to the base of the mountain. The stairs went around and around the inside of the outer wall.  A low thick stone wall guarded the inner, inner edge, separating the stairs from the cavity at the center of the mountain. Jeffry could not see to the stairs bottom. They had climbed a long way up, and these stairs went a long way down.

They rested their poles against the side wall and Mary-Kate lifted what looked like a pair of saddles from a hook on the wall. “I had better tie ours together in case you get stuck. I take it you’ve never banistered before?”

“Uh.. banistered?”

“Don’t worry, you can just hold on to me, and you’ll be roped on anyway.” She put the saddles on the stone edge and tied the back handles of one to the front handles of the other. Then she tied a rope around Jeffry’s waist, and through all the handles. “Now sit, like this.” she sat side saddle on the first and he imitated on the second, “Hold on!”

He was not quite sure what to hold on to, so he grabbed a handle with one hand and put his other arm around her middle. Then she kicked off along the stone edge and the saddles moved along the stone wall. They accelerated, zooming down the stone edge of the stairs, around and around the mountain’s hollow interior, narrowly avoiding stalagmites and stalagtites.

The air wizzed by him so fast that he couldn’t catch his breath and he wondered what would happen when they hit the bottom. His hand on the saddle handle had turned white at the knuckles and the rope cut into his waist. They rode, going faster with each passing second, then after about five minutes they began to slow. He could just catch his breath again when they slammed into a pile of dusty old pillows and the ride was over.

It took as much time for Jeffry to get over his own shock that it did for Mary-Kate to get them untangled. “Couldn’t we have gone around the mountains another way?” he asked.

“There is no other way, boy.” a voice crackled in the darkness.

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Three figured loomed out of the darkness, though technically speaking they were only able to loom because Jeffry and Mary-Kate were on the ground. In reality the three old women were much shorter than both travelers, but very intimidating. They all wore odd poncho-like garments that seemed to be made of shimmering light and shadow woven together. This fell to their knees, but Jeffry didn’t want to look further down. Two had seized Mary-Kate for examination while the other seized up Jeffry.

“She’s one of our’s.” crackled the taller of the paired examiners.

“He’s not.” reported Jeffry’s voyeur.

“He’s with me, and he doesn’t have weapons,” said Mary-Kate, “Grannies, we are on our way to the groundless castle-”

“You will stay for tea.” interrupted one of the grandmothers.

“Yes ma’am.” They were seated on slightly slimy rocks, and handed cups of a smelly congealed liquid. Mary-Kate didn’t drink much because the grannies were quizzing her intently on every aspect of her life since they had last seen her (a few months before). Jeffry didn’t drink much because he was pretty sure they had just scraped the cups against the slimier rocks and added hot water.

“So, where is it?” one of the grannies had asked him an unexpected question.

“I’m sorry, what, ma’am?”

“Where is the groundless castle?”

“Ummm… the what?” He had a foggy sense of hearing the word before, but he didn’t know why he should know where it was. To make matters worse, Mary-Kate was looking at him with a mixture of shock and horror.

“You don’t know, do you.” The old woman’s voice had an odd mixture of contempt, annoyance, and satisfaction.

“Why should I know? Isn’t it on a map?”

“No, it’s groundless! That’s the point! Only someone who knows its travel schedule will be able to get to it!” Mary-Kate was now on her feet, “I thought she told you! She must have! All those jumps, and you had no idea?”

“Is the groundless castle where Constance is?” Mary-Kate answered with a sound of derision and smacked her head with the palm of her hand.

“You had better think hard, boy. If you don’t remember some directions you aren’t going to find your princess, and I won’t be so forgiving that you didn’t finish my tea,” Snarled one of her grandmothers.

“Leave him alone. You have trouble thinking under pressure too, and sometimes with no pressure at all.” Another of the crones defended him.

“I do not!” The two began squabbling and carried it over to a fire pit where they began to poke the glowing green coals with sticks. Jeffry took the moment to huddle in a shadowy corner. He was so tired, and he had run out of ideas. He thought about his home and he thought about his darling cow so far away. She was probably scared and definitely in danger. He wanted to cry, but he was just too exhausted. He leaned into his pack trying to pretend it was Sweet Flower’s side. He wanted his cow so he could get some sleep, but his pack was so lumpy, and so glowing.

Glowing? He sat up and looked it closely. It wasn’t the pack that was glowing, but something inside. He dug through it and pulled out some slightly rumpled paper that was definitely glowing and tried to smooth it out. A sketch of Sweet Flower made by one of the Glossys stared back at him… then blinked.

The cow’s tail flicked and she turned sideways then walked her glowing waxy self off the page. The sketch floated in the air before him and walked towards the still cranky voices.

Real Jeffry and sketch Sweet Flower were a few yards away from them when Mary-Kate and the grannies when they looked up and saw the boy and his floating, glowing, cartoon companion.

“Well, well, well I do believe the boy has remembered something.” The cow wagged its tail at the oldest granny in response. The three old women flew into action, adding odd things to a cauldron which was settled over the now roaring fire. As they worked, sketch cow nuzzled Jeffry as he sat with his back against yet another rock. He must have dozed off because he woke when Mary-Kate whispered his name into his ear in a silly sing-song voice he’d heard women use for babies.

“We’re ready.” crackled the shortest granny who then added to the glowing sketch cow, “If you would be so kind, lady cow.”

The sketch leaped forward, and to Jeffry’s horror, into the cauldron. The floor beneath then shook and began to spin. The land leaps felt like calm walks compared to this stomach wrenching method of travel. He quaked along with the floor and thanked his lucky stars he hadn’t had very much of that tea after all. A few sickeningly shaky seconds later they landed on a set of stone stairs in front of a towering oak door.

This time Jeffry knew he was going to be sick, and he wished the grannies would get out-of-the-way so he could vomit off the side of the steps and not on them. One had hold of his arm and another poked his forehead, “Hold still!” she said bossily. He was going to try to push them out-of-the-way when a wave of blue calm burst through her finger and into him, settling both his stomach and his nerves. “That would have been easier if you hadn’t been wriggling like a fish. It wouldn’t hurt if you were all man or all boy, and not something of a mix of the two, but I suppose you can’t help that.”

The granny who had ahold of his arm now patted his shoulder, “Well done boy.” The wax cartoon cow that had preceded them snorted and tried to get back into the backpack.

“Speaking of which,” Mary-Kate raised an eyebrow, ”Do you want to knock, or shall I?”

Jeffry inhaled deeply, thankful that he wouldn’t be meeting the princess with sick-breath, reach up to the door’s elaborate gold knocker and pounded it twice. The two door halves creaked open to the largest hall any of them had ever seen. The room had plenty of light, windows the size of the front of Jeffry’s house stretched from floor to ceiling edge, connected by pillars that blossomed into arches so far above them that he had to squint to see the top. The ceiling was painted gold and vibrant scarlet to match the slightly worn scarlet carpet beneath their feet. The floor adornment traveled out before them to the edge of an elegantly carved wooden platform at the other end of the room.

There were a few figures on the distant raised surface, but two stood out. One looked a little familiar to Jeffry, but to his still tired brain seemed to be the wrong color.

The other was definitely familiar because it was his cow!

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Both princess and bovine towards the boy — the cow with more difficulty because cows are too dignified to run.

Constance threw her arms around him, knocking out the wind he had so recently taken in. She had appeared to be the wrong color because she was now wearing a fluffy golden princess dress that ruffled over her amber skin. She looked much more princessy and cleaner, as did the soon embraced Sweet Flower, now wearing a matching gold bow.

The grannies were giving Sweet Flower a strange look, which gave Jeffry the creeps but didn’t seem to bother her as she told him, “We get to stay in the castle until they figure out a way to get the shoe out — or as long as we like — as guests of the King. You should taste some of the clover they have in the kitchen!” Then she turned as sheepish as a cow can look, “I’m sorry we left you at the campsite, but I knew you’d be able to find us with picture me.”

“Yeah, that picture was brilliant.” Jeffry told her. “But what about the Knights?” He asked Constance. “We should go back and help them!”

Constance nodded to a trail of yarn which led to a small circle of people happily knitting by the fire.  “No need. They came to us.”

“The dead traitors back at the knitted castle were more interested in following the Princess and the cow than fighting the Knitworthy Knights.” Mary-Kate explained. “They would have loved to have gotten their hands on you for ransom, or in hopes that you could lead them to Constance, but once you were gone too they put away their screaming blue arrows,  gave up the battle and followed her on their two-mile shoes.”

“But won’t they be able to catch up? Won’t they find us here?’

Mary-Kate touched his nose gently with the tip of her knitting needle. “But where is here? You can’t find it  on a map, and they wont be able to follow us with their two-mile shoes.” She picked up the end of the yarn trail and bound on. “This is a MAGIC castle.” She started a simple garter stitch scarf. “It moves about as it pleases, and those old gits will never find us here!” She smiled at him and began to knit in earnest, happy that each stitch brought her closer to her troop.

Constance scratched Sweet Flower behind her ears, “we called for a veterinarian, but she said just to wait and see and that the shoe will come out eventually and we can take you both home.” Constance told him, “And you really should try the clover, they have candied clover from Highlandia, it’s delicious!”

“Say, boy,” cut in one of the grannies, “How long have you owned this cow?”

“I beg your pardon! Owned?!” Sweet Flower snorted indignantly.

“It’s more of the other way around, ma’am. I’m her human.” Jeffry said before Sweet Flower’s temper reached its full swing, “We’ve been together for about two years.”

“Two years, eh?” the grannies fell into intent whispered conversation while Constance pulled Jeffry and Mary-Kate to the platform to meet her parents and sisters. King and Queen Middlelaine were very nice and thanked him again and again for helping Constance, while her older sister, Morning Middlelaine, just giggled and her little sister, Hawlie, hid behind her mother’s skirts. Constance seemed oddly embarrassed by her relatives, but Jeffry thought that shy and giggly siblings were better than grumpy big ones that stole his food. The King and Queen were just mentioning something about dinner when the shortest Granny poked Jeffry’s arm.

“What’s your cow’s name, boy?”

“Sweet Flower. She told me- well she wasn’t talking then exactly- but I knew somehow.”

“Ha! Didn’t I tell you!” she cackled to the other two, “It’s the girl!” She flicked her fingers at Sweet Flower and at once she was surrounded by emerald and gold sparks. Her body began to change, became taller and less wide and deep. In a few moments a girl of around his and Constance’s age stood before them in a rather beaten up brown dress the colors of the cows spots and a dirty white apron. A second later Sweet Flower the human doubled over with pain, clutching her stomach.

“The shoe!” cried Constance, “the shoe was in her cow stomach, but they’re too much for her human form!”

“Quick! Get it out!” shouted Jeffry.

“Woops,” said the granny and she flicked her fingers at Sweet Flower again, who gave a belch and spat out a pink satin shoe.

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Epilogue:

The Villagers of Sheepston were surprised when the castle suddenly appeared on the northern hills above their valley, but they didn’t say anything, just as they didn’t when that odd boy who had kept a cow came home with a girl with the same name. The girl was odd too, she ate clover more than was decent in a salad and wore no shoes. When she was asked about the footwear she told the villagers that she had tried them once but they were too chewy. They had shrugged their shoulders and went back to life, because it was no use worrying about it and it didn’t affect them.

When Jeffry’s big brothers tried to steal his food, they would find that tiny knitting needles pinned their sleeves to the table an inch away, or that their knives had been replaced with crochet hooks. Eventually they stopped trying to steal and began conversing about sheep at the table.

The castle would appear for a few months at a time, mostly in summer, then vanish again. The villagers agreed that strange things happened more often when it was there than when it wasn’t, but the family who lived there were nice enough and they were relatively interested in sheep. Occasionally an odd thing would pop up on its own, a tall clanky stranger would wander through, a troop of knit obsessed knights would buy out the entire village’s yield of fleece or a bird man would fly by on his way to a corn field.

The most common odd visitor, though, was the middle daughter from the castle, the one with the dark braid. When she arrived it wasn’t long before she, the boy and the girl would disappear for another adventure.

The End


July Creative Challenge, day 27: More or Less

[At the farmer’s market today I looked over the bountiful produce and baked goods and yummies. What should I get to highlight in my upcoming Muffin Monday blog? As I stood there enjoying a rare cool July morning I decided to get creative and think about my personal recipe. What would I do to alter my own ingredients to make a better “Me Muffin”? ]

Creativity Fairy

I was thinking that I should definitely add several ounces of additional PATIENCE in my daily dietary count of being-ness.

REGRETS?  I have a few… But there I think the scale is balanced.

There is an abundance of little JOYS. And smiles are easy to give, but you can’t really give them away because they bounce back. So the smile bank is always growing, yes?

There’s never enough TIME. And I find myself flitting from one task to the next like a hummingbird gathering nectar. But no matter how fast I fly I never seem to have enough time finish all my tasks, and my nectar meter is never quite full. I would add time if I could, but there are only so many minutes in a day.

I could do with fewer CALORIES. So maybe I could trade in some weight. That be nice. But, honestly, I don’t think in those terms until I look in the mirror, and I don’t really think in terms of mirrors.

If an ORGANIZATION fairy flew into my window I would make her a little plate of berries and tiny cookies and a petite cup of warm sweet milk. I would welcome her with the hope that she would help me straighten out the this and that about the place. Frankly, I would much rather write and create than organize.

Moments of FAITH are there for the taking. A touch stone of belief that never falters, no matter how much I question it or others question me. I could use a pinch more faith in my day, I suppose, but I’d want it well mixed in with the rest of me, and would not like it to be just sprinkled on top.

CREATIVITY is an ingredient in my daily life that tends to be a bit clumpy. It would be nice if it fell in a finely sifted snow of inspiration throughout the day instead of coming at me like chocolate chips morsels of illumination. Then again I don’t think that would prove as interesting as the current spark and dark method I dance.

 

Hmmmm. I’m wondering what YOU would adjust to your personal recipe. Would you turn up the heat? Would you spice up the ingredients? Drop me a line and let me know.


July Creative Challenge, Day 25: Topsy-Turvy (Part 5)

[I have it from good authority that this long story will end in the next installment. So hang in there folks.] You Should read PART 1, PART 2, PART 3 AND PART 4  before you continue here with part 5.

267

Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

“Enough.” Said Sir Walter. “You know you shouldn’t –”

“WHAT? Sir Walter?” Asked Constance with fury, “Shouldn’t try to escape from THAT?” She waved her hand in  a general Easterly direction. “Because we may have defeated Orving, but there were other 2-mile shoes in the castle, and if he found us…more like him are sure to follow!”

She could tell by the look of shock on everyone’s face that she’d been screaming and acting in a very un-princess like manner.

“I- I beg your pardon Sir Walter.”

“No worries lassie.” He told her with kind understanding. “It’s not you that’s speaking, it’s the exhaustion brought on by all that blasted leaping.”

“But we can’t stop.” She said, near tears, “they’ll catch up.”

Sir Walter pulled out a knitting needle and scratched his scalp  as he pondered this. “I’ve got nothin’. “

“We could pitch camp here.” Frank Cottonwell suggested.

A little whine of dispar came from Constance.

Mary-Kate explained, “Not just any camp, and proper Knitting Knight’s camp.”

“We knit ourselves a castle.” Lady Scarlette told her.

Sir Walter gave her a wink, “A magic castle.”

“It’s a tower really, we knit it in the round.”

“What if we kept land leaping?” Jeffry asked.

The Knitworthy Knights frowned in his direction.  “Look at her, boy,” grumbled Sir Walter with a nod toward the exhausted and fretting Constance, The lass can nah take much more leaping.”

“But it seems like only the person wearing the slipper gets effected by it.” Jeffry explained. so far Sweet Flower is ok– right?”

The cow lifted her head from the patch of weeds she’d been chomping and gave him a nod. “I’m alright .”

“That’s probably because we’ve only been leaping for a little while, and the princess has been at it for hours and hours.”

Constance gave a pathetic sigh.

“What if one of us wore the slipper and Constance took a ride for a while? We could get some real distance between us and whoever is following us and THEN we could stop and set up the knitted castle”

Lady Scarlette clicked her knitting needles together and the knights huddled for a conference to consider Jeffry’s proposal.

“We are wasting time!” Complained Constance.

The knights broke the huddle, clicking their needles in agreement. “O.K. We’ll try the boy’s plan.” Said Sir Walter. “Princess, may I have your slipper?”

She slipped off the pink footwear and turned it over to the him.

As he held it in his hand a flaw in the plan became obvious. He could fit his thumb in the slipper, but he’d never get it on his foot. “Oh, dear.”

Lady Scarlette’s feet were too big, so were Mary-Kate’s , and Frank Cottenwells and all six Tweed feet.

Jeffry looked down at his mud encrusted feet.

They ALL looked down at Jeffry’s mud encrusted feet.  “Um… I’ll do it…Unless you think I’m not magical enough.”

“Oh, Jeffry,” Constance said with affection, “you are more than magical enough.”

He put the slipper, which was a little snug, on his foot. “What direction?”

Constance turned him to the right direction.  Then she swooned with exhaustion.

Sir Walter caught her. “I’ve got you princess.”

The third Tweed brother quickly bound something off his needles “Here, Sir Walter.” He said handing it over.

“It’s a sleeping sack for the Princess, we knit it while you all were yacking.” Said the second Tweed brother.

“You sling it over your shoulder and  she can sleep inside while we all leap.”

“We’ll, what are we waiting for?”

Everyone held onto the cow. Jeffry took a nervous breath, concentrated, and took a step.

He made 23 more land leaps before the group stopped again.  At Lady Scarlette’s suggestion they altered direction a few degrees  north for a half-dozen  leaps, shifted a few degrees east for the next leap then went back  to their original trajectory for a long series of leaps.

157

The sun was setting when Jeffry finally let go of Sweet flower’s collar. ” You O.K. girl?” He whispered quietly into her hairy ear.

“Moooooo. You O.K.? You look kind of green.” She said with concern.

“I feel kind of green.”  He admitted.

“We’ll, what do you think?” Asked Lady Scarlette, “should we break for the night here, or keep going a bit more?”

It took Jeffery a second to realize she was talking to him. In general, None of the knights ASKED him anything. Commanded, yes. Asked, not so much.

He wasn’t sure. They had covered a lot of ground, but was it enough. “Where’s the Princess?” She would know.

Sir Walter indicated to the wooly knitted sack he was cradling. “Still asleep, poor lamb.”

It wasn’t like he didn’t WANT to stop. Jeffry was starting to feel the exhaustion that has plagued Constance. AND he was getting sick. But he didn’t think they’d put enough space between them and the evil men who were following them. What if Lady Scarlette’s feint to the north a few hours ago didn’t misdirect them?

“Why don’t we go on for a bit more?” Jeffry suggested. “We can stop when the moon rises. Then you can knit the castle and we can rest.” He worried that he was sounding too bossy so he added an “O.K.?”

“You’re the man with the slipper.” Said Sir Walter with a shrug. He put his beefy hand back on Sweet Flower’s collar and the other Knitworthy Knights followed suit. Jeffry aligned himself in the right direction took hold of his cow’s horn and took a step.

257

———————

By midnight they knights had finished a tower complete with drawbridge. They built a fire in the courtyard and proceeded to make their dinner. Constance was awake, but still groggy. Jeffry took off her slipper and handed it back to her.

“Thanks for that.” She said sweetly. The rest had done wonders for her personality. She was back to being a kind, gracious, sweet princess now. She made room in her Princess sack — which had expanded as the night wore on — and Jeffry snuggled in next to her. Together the sleepily children tried to stay awake in the warm woolen bag so they could listen to the others tell stories around the campfire.

The trio of Tweeds told a very funny story about pirates kings and treasures and dancing. (Naturally, they acted out all the bits about fighting and dancing.)

Frank Cottenwell told of a farmer who lived near his home town.

Most farmers have trouble with crows, as you know. But this farmer had a much larger and more menacing problem. He was burdened with a homoaviario, a birdman. He/it swooped down onto the farmer’s fields every night and had a banquet of fresh vegetables. Homoaviario laughed at the farmer’s feeble attempts to scare him away. He flew over to the scarecrow and perched on the thing’s shoulder singing a loud cawing song until the farmer came into the field with a pitch fork and chased him off.

The next night Homoaviario  was back, snacking on on corn and lima beans to his delight.“Ach you miserable beast!” Yelled the farmer “get ye out of my field!” And the farmer and three of his farming cohorts shot blunderbusses from the four corners of the field to scare the human/bird hybrid away. And Homoaviario did fly off… but he came back.

The next day when he  flew in there was a skeleton where the scarecrow had been and as Homoaviario landed the skeleton waved its bony arms madly. It did not so much scare the bird man as it intrigued him. He approached the  skeleton and it waved more frantically and a booming voice said. “No, no… let the skeleton be. There’s nothing odd about it… “ The more the skeleton spoke the less menacing it seemed, and more it sounded like the farmer. “I, er, oh, you’ll wind up like me a nasty ole bag of bones if you don’t clear on out of here!”  There behind a hunting blind was the farmer pulling on wires attached to the skeleton like a marionette. Homoaviario laughed at the silly man and took his dinner and flew away.

The next night the farmer was nowhere to be seen, but a strange little man with thick glasses and a large head sat on a blanket in a clearing. He was reading a book and he didn’t look up until the bird man was standing right in front of him.

“Oh,” he said in a squeaky voice, “good day to you, Sir Birdman, good day.”

Homoaviario ducked his head. It had been a fine day, and he was ready for a fine dinner.

“My name is Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc, and I have been employed by the farmer who owns this acreage to attempt to evacuate you.”

The birdman shrugged and blew a rather unflattering snort out of his beak like nose at that idea. Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc could TRY.

“Do you happen to like insects, Sir Birdman?”

This had Homoaviario’s attention he very much liked insects. In fact he usually saved a handful of crickets for his dessert after eating his corn and lima beans.

“Crunchy, delicate winged fellows?” Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc tempted him. “Chewy on the inside crispy on the outside? They even sing for your entertainment, so I’m told.”

The birdman made a noise of longing. He wanted some of those insects right now.

“Well, I have it under very good authority that two counties over they are having a blight of locust. Desperate to get rid of the buggers, as it were.  It sounds to me like a situation you are uniquely qualified for, sir” He held out a business card which Homoaviario took his feathery hand. “Sixteen miles in that direction. Tell them Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc sent you.” He smiled, “lovely doing business with you.”

With a swoop of his wings Homoaviario flew off to the locust invested fields.

Maximillion Rodulfo Hemingway DeLuc put away his book and folded up his picnic blanket. He was a happy man. He solved two problems and got paid twice that day.

265

Mary-Kate told a melancholy story about a beautiful girl who was forced to live by other people’s rules:

There once was a beautiful girl who had a bad reputation. It wasn’t her fault. Her beauty made her the desire of all the men in the village. It also made her the envy of all the women. Alas it also made the scorn of most of the women. They often talked behind their hands about the pretty girl and used words like “floosy” and “tart,” when really the pretty girl was the model of goodness.

One day her father arranged a marriage with the wealthiest merchant in town. It made him (the father) very rich, but she was not in love with the merchant. She liked many men who had come courting, but had fallen in love with none of them. She tried to explain to her father that she wasn’t ready to get married. But he was too busy counting the pile of money he’d gotten from the merchant to listen to his daughter.

It satisfied the merchant that he had won his pretty prize and once they were married he stopped paying the pretty girl compliments or leaving her little presents. Soon she became little more than a servant in his house. The highest ranked servant to be sure, but still, a servant to his wants and needs. It was not the life she had dreamed of, but it was what it was.

The girl put away her girlish fancies and was a dutiful wife. She made the bread, and learned to knit, and kept the house, and managed the merchants finances while he went off to faraway lands to find fine and exotic items for his shoppe.

One day he arrived home with a tall dark stranger. “This man here is a silk trader from the Italy and he’s going to teach me all there is to know about buying and selling silks. He’s a guest in our house and you’re to treat him as such.” The husband ordered gruffly — he always spoke to her in a gruff voice now. He had no need for the honeyed voice of a suitor now that they were an old married couple.

The girl did as she was told she treated the stranger as an honored guest. She made him warm home made meals when the husband ate at the tavern with friends. She listened to the stranger’s stories of Italy as they sat in front of the fire if he was lonely. She walked him around the town and showed him the sights so he wouldn’t get lost.

The neighbor women whispers behind their hands about how the girl and the stranger looked at each other. How he held the crook of her arm to guide her around pile of animal dung in the street. How she laughed at the jokes he told in his strange Italian accent.

Soon word got back to the husband that the girl and the stranger had become lovers. He was a vain man. Although he couldn’t believe that his wife would prefer anyone over him he was furious that such a rumor would exist at all. He confronted the stranger and ordered the him out of the house.

Confused — he and the girl had been most chaste in their relationship — the man packed to leave.

When the girl came in and heard the ranting merchant and saw the packing stranger she pleaded with her husband to reconsider. He took this the wrong way. Was it a sign of guilt? His hand came down across her pretty face. Before she hit the stone floor the stranger moved between husband and wife.

NO. The stranger could not allow this. He challenged the rich man to a duel to prove his honor and the honor of the pretty girl. The next morning they met at dawn in the town’s square. Most of the neighbors lined the street or hung out of windows to watch.

A terrible sword fight ensued. Occasionally the stranger would demand that the merchant take back what he said. And the merchant would counter that the stranger should  take back what he did.  In the end both the merchant and the stranger were badly injured. Though both men were better at trading goods than exchanging thrust with their blades, pride and honor made them fight with such venom that in the end neither man would walk away whole.

After a half hour of Coup droit d’autorité  and Froissement  and slicing and hacking the stranger made a move In quartata. The merchant saw his chance and thrust his blade into the man’s unguarded back. With a sickly crunch of backbone and slurp of vital organs he withdrew the sword and the merchant fell dying to the cobblestone of the courtyard. The town guards were called and the death was recorded.

The girl brought the cart from the warehouse and hired two lads to put both men inside it. She took her husband home and put him to bed. She bound his wounds and gave him mulled wine to ease his pain. He was in bad shape, and he might not make it through the night. 

She found that either way it didn’t really matter to her. Anything between them had been dead for a long, long time (perhaps there had never been anything there at all). What did it matter if he died now?

And If he lived? He would never be able to walk again. Never be able to go on his buying trips. At most he would be an invalid, stuck in this house, growing ever more annoyed at his surroundings, at her.

She had nursed her mother, God rest her soul, and had watched that dear woman suffer for years until the angels took her. But it wouldn’t be like that with him.  He would be a beast of a patient and she would bear the brunt of it. The bed pans, she could handle, the abuse… no. It was too much.

She brought him another goblet of wine and put an envelope of powder into it.

“What are you doing?” He demanded angrily, weakly.

“It’s a powder to help with the pain.” It was the truth. The powder would ease his pain. But too much of it would stop his heart. And she helped him sit up to drink the wine. Every last drop.

Then she took a bag of food, a change of clothing, some essentials, a knife and lamp and went back outside to the cart and the body of the stranger.

Poor man. She didn’t even know if he had family back in Italy.  She paid a silver coin to to have him buried.

Then she walk into the mountains and was never seen again.

Mary Kate looked around the campfire, pointed one of her fine Italian knitting needles at them and said mysteriously. “She is still out here today. Somewhere.”

144

As Sir Walter started to tell his rollicking story of a Minotaur named Boris who lived in the Glen of Glee Bardon Lady Scarlette stopped knitting and held up her hand. The group fell silent.

“There’s something out there.” She whispered. “Joey” she nodded to the nearest of the Tweed brother’s check the I chords on your portcullis.

“I didn’t knit a portcullis.” He whisper back urgently. “Jamie, check the I chords on your portcullis.”

Jamie gave a little panicked look to their third brother “I didn’t knit the portcullis either, I thought Jackie was doing it?”

The realization hit them all at once that not only had no one knit the I chords to lift and lower the portcullis, but no one had knit the portcullis!

They had essentially knit a circular trap and left the front door unguarded while they built a fire and told stories!

A half a second later the fire was out. Sir Walter had grabbed Princess Constance and was rushing to Sweet Flower.

Jeffry fumbled to free himself from the Princess sack.

Glowing blue arrows were coming from the entrance of tower. The Knights got their shields up in time, but as the arrows hit the blue dissolved and melted into screams of horror.

Jeffry hesitated. He had to dodge those arrows to get to Sweet Flower, Constance and escape. “GO!” yelled Frank Cottenwell.

“What happens if one of those arrows hits me?” Jeffry asked, panicked.

“You’ll die screaming.” Another arrow hit Frank’s shield and shrieked. “Just like that.” He loosed another arrow from his bow. “But if you don’t go right NOW, you’re going to die anyway.”

Jeffry turned toward the cow and the girl and the Sir Walter. He poised himself to make a run for it.

But Lady Scarlette stood and yelled “Go!” to the little group and somehow Constance’s foot moved forward and they vanished.

Jeffry fell to the ground. “NO!”

The death arrows rained down faster and a faster.

Mary-Kate knelt next to Jeffry. She pulled out a large glowing crochet needle and set it on the ground between them. “Which way did the sun set?”

He wiped at his eyes. What did it matter which way the sun set? They were all going to die a terrible death.

She shook him. “Jeffry! Which way did the sun set?”

He pointed to the right. “Good boy.” She shot off an arrow. “Move the crochet hook so it’s facing the sunset.” She shot another arrow. “Hurry.” She shot another arrow.

He did as he was told. “Now throw the hook as high into the air as you can and catch it.”

She released another arrow.

He threw the hook into the air.

Mary-Kate reached back and grabbed his leg.

He caught the hook.

Jeffry felt himself fading away. The battle in the knitted castle dimmed. And suddenly he and Mary-Kate were huddle on the ground in the woods, far away.

[Like the rest of this story, indeed all of my blog, this post is copyrighted.  Don’t even think of stealing it… or we’ll have to send Sir Walter after you.]


Farm Fresh Challenge: Summer Sausage Scampi

box shot

Box shot: Starting at the 6:00 position and moving clockwise around the picture we have heirloom tomatoes, garlic, fennel, purple basil, mini carrots, baby beets, more carrots, scallions, and arugala. In the center are some of the shallots  and potatoes..

Nothing says summer more than a big juicy tomato, right?  — Well, except, maybe four big juicy tomatoes…that’s what I found in my box this week.  There were so many culinary  possibilities with this box from our CSA (Calvert’s Gift Community Support Agriculture farm north of Baltimore, Maryland) that it was hard to choose what to make. But when I saw the Roaming GastroGnomes weekly blog on Paella something clicked. No… I didn’t have the chicken, or green beans, or saffron of the right kind of rice… but maybe I could make something akin to the amazing dish he’d shared.

My goal, as usual, was to use what was on hand along with the treasures I found in my CSA box for …

[Not associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network or Ted Allen.]

[Not associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network or Tim Allen.]

FROM THE BOX:

  •  1 Garlic
  • 1 Tomatoes
  • 1 Shallots
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 cup Carrots

FROM THE PANTRY & FRIDGE:

  • 1 lb Fresh Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Basmati Rice (prepared — I used 2 packs of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice )
  • 1/2 cup of whole Almonds
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon of Tumeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cumin

DIRECTIONS

1. Form Sausage into 1 1/2″ meatballs and place into a large, hot, frying pan. Brown on all sides, cooking the meatballs through.

browned Sausage balls

These sausage meatballs have one more turn to go.

2. Turn down the heat. Add two cups of water and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Prepare the vegetables. Chop the Carrots  and Tomatoes into 1/2″ pieces. Dice the Onions and Shallots into 1/4″ pieces. Finely mince the Garlic.

4. When the meatballs are done remove them to a medium bowl and set aside. Put the Carrots int he hot water (do not change the water) and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the carrots and and any water remaining in the pan to meatball bowl. Put the Olive Oil into the hot pan and add the Garlic, Onions and Shallots. Increase heat and brown the vegetables until Onions are translucent.

6. Put the Meat, Carrots and water back in the frying pan and stir. Add the Tomatoes, remaining one cup of water and stir.

7. Add the Basmati Rice and the spices and mix. DON’T STIR AGAIN until your serve. Sprinkle with the almonds.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. REDUCE heat to simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes. Move the pan around the heat source to distribute the heat evenly.

Note the crisping rice at the edges. This is almost done cooking.

Note the crisping rice at the edges. This is almost done cooking.

8. Plate and serve. This is delicious as is… but I think the next time I make it I’ll add raisins for a touch of sweetness. I’ll also pump up the volume with an extra tomato.

On the plate and ready to eat.

On the plate and ready to eat.

(for more Farm Fresh Challenge recipes type “Farm Fresh” in the search field at the top of the blog.

More recipes I want to try:


July Creative Challenge: Shakespeare on the Grass

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) in action.

This Sunday I spent the afternoon at Meadow at Evergreen enjoying the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s performance of HAMLET.

I love to see Shakespeare live, and especially love to see it live outdoors, and super especially love to see it live outdoors the way Shakespeare’s audiences would have seen it 400 years ago. So I put aside my dislike for summer weather and bugs (I came prepared with bug spray, a sun hat, sun screen and lots of ice water) and headed into Baltimore for some murder and mayhem — Tudor Style.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

The body count mounts as the play winds down.

Tom Delise, The Factory’s Artistic Director and the director of this production, used a light touch when it came to staging. A single set piece standing in for Elsinore Castle rises from a simple wooden platform.  Three red curtains  allow the actors access on and off stage. But Delise has his actors using all of the Meadow, so the actors are moving up and down aisles and entering from behind the audience too.

Unlike the 1,500 to 3,000 people who went to see the original play in the Globe Theatre, audience members in the Meadow have an intimate connection with the actors. Engaging the audience is one of The Factory’s core principles, and at times it felt like Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude and the rest were talking right to me. That really draws you into the action, and gives you a stake in what happens in the plot.

Ophelia, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Ophelia (Ann Turiano), at peace at last, about to be taken to the graveyard.

Given that just about every high school student reads Hamlet for some English class between 9th and 12th grade, and most people have seen at least one film version of the play its a pretty good bet that you’ll know the plot and at least some of the lines before the show begins. That’s helpful because this production is fast paced, and if you didn’t already have a little knowledge of what was going on you might get overwhelmed.  And when I say fast paced I mean tight, as in TIGHT. As  in sweetly, seamlessly: bam, bam, bam; scene, scene, scene. It’s no wonder they got this notoriously long play (it’s Shakespeare’s longest) down to about 2 hours 40 minutes. Very impressive. (Although the only “complaint” I have is that without breaking for scene changes I couldn’t CLAP! And I really wanted to clap.)

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

Ian Blackwell Rogers (Hamlet) and Jess Behar (Rosencrantz).

The Factory has several actors playing multiple roles. Hugh F. Hill, III was vain and a little evil as Claudius and wonderfully creepy as the zombie like Ghost. Frank Vince was funny as the annoyingly dotting father Polonius and as the pious Priest.  James Miller intense as Laertes and animated as the Player King. Jess Behar and Katherine Vary were wonderful as the sycophantic  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They also played Francisco and Bernardo. Jim Stimson is both in the ensemble and is lead musician for the group (he plays a mean lute and guitar). Poor Amy Parochetti and Chris Ryder played 12 roles between them!

Other actors had one role.

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

Kelly Dowling as Gertrude

I liked Kelly Dowling’s tender/tough approach to Gertrude. And I loved the heart-break and surprise she brought to the stage when her character realizes what a mess her life suddenly has become.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman (Horatio) learns that Hamlet is coming back to Elsinore.

Chris Cotterman plays my favorite character in the show, Horatio. It’s a tough role because he’s the best friend, the second guy. He can’t upstage Hamlet (literally) and Chris doesn’t. He plays the supporting role (both in the character’s life and on stage) perfectly.

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Kelly Dowling (Gerturde) and Ann Turiano (Ophelia)

Ann Turiano is lovely as Ophelia. Her confusion over familial duty and her suddenly rocky love life in the first half is tender and heartbreaking, but its her mad scenes in the second half that steal the show.

Ham Yurick

I last saw  Ian Blackwell Rogers as the title character in The Factory’s Macbeth. He brings the same energy and intensity here. It is hard to take your eyes off of him as you try to puzzle out what’s going on in that head of his. As the lines spill out of him at break neck speed he keeps you engaged and on point with the plot.

Larertes Ham

As hot as it was on Sunday I expected the actors to lose some gusto as the show went on, but the opposite happened. As they plowed into Acts Three, Four and Five they only got more intense. By the time Hamlet and Laertes were at each other’s throats my heart was pounding. And it didn’t have anything to do with the temperature.

Click HERE to read the Today in MD Theatre Guide  Review.


Muffin Monday: Blueberry, Lemon, Zucchini

Its Muffin Monday everybody! Blueberries and Zucchini are still going strong so I made them the star, along with the lovely lemon, for this week’s recipe.

muffin on china

INGREDIENTS:

  • 15 Vanilla Wafers
  • 8 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup grated Zucchini
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Lemon Peel
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 15 muffin cups by spraying with cooking spray. Place a Vanilla Wafer inside each muffin cup and set aside. (OK I just happened to have Vanilla Wafers, and thought this would add a bit of texture. You can skip this bit if you don’t have Vanilla Wafers — I hereby give you absolution — However, if you are feeling particularly spicy today, why not try Ginger Snaps?)

muffin cups with cookie

2. In a large bowl cream the Butter. Add the Sugar and the Eggs. Then add the Vanilla Extract, Baking Powder and Salt, all at once, and mix well.

3. In a small bowl  mash 1/2 cup of the Blueberries.

4. Put the mashed Blueberries, the grated Zucchini and the grated fresh Lemon Peal in the batter and stir until blended.

Batter with fruit

5. Add half the Flour. Stir. The Milk, Stir. Rest of the Flour. Stir.

6. Fold in the rest of Blueberries.

7. Divide evenly into the 15 muffin cups. (If you want to make slightly smaller muffins prepare 18 cups).

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the muffins are golden brown and pass the toothpick test.  Let rest 5 minutes before enjoying with some tea or lemon aide.

baked muffins

They didn’t rise very much, but they sure are good. Both my taster Maggie and I really liked the flavor profile. Maggie put it best when she said “Quite a delightful muffin. The lemon & blueberry compliment each other nicely. And they have just the right amount of moisture.” The density is spot on as well.

Let me know if you try the recipe. I’m curious to see if you like them as much as we did.

Don’t miss my other Muffin Monday recipes… type Muffin Monday in the search field at the top of the blog, on the right.


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