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Confessions of an Un-Runner

Cyndi Paxton Johnson

The Estrogen Army is on patrol and the Holiday Blessings are accumulating!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Move over, Marines – you’ve been outflanked, outnumbered and outsourced! I’m not putting you down, and have nothing but love for you – but your highly synchronized moves have nothing, NOTHING on a group I like to call “The Estrogen Army”.

They blend into the landscape without need of camouflage, in fact – they ARE the landscape.  Silently they wait for the call to action, then spring into maneuvers that would make the Blue Angels green with envy.  They analyze the situation, take inventory, assess needs then assign (d implement) tasks with speed that should make the White House blush with shame.

They are everywhere. They go about their daily lives with the finesse of a double agent, making light of their burdens while laughing at themselves until that critical moment – the moment they are needed.  They are simply, women – tenders of the hearth, nurturers, healers and givers.  In times of need they rally together with strength, love and dedication.

I am proud to be a member of their ranks – and yet I am humbled and amazed by their stories.  Facebook is their new battleground – where they reach out, connect and organize.  When one of their ranks is touched by betrayal, illness, tragedy or misfortune they are there, arranging meals, childcare, transportation and meeting daily needs, from toilet paper to new stoves.  They give out of love, support and the understanding that women share much more than words could ever explain.  

The Estrogen Army’s greeting is simply, “What can I do to help?” .  Unfortunately, people rarely answer that question, perhaps from fear of appearing weak.   It’s difficult for the EA to mobilize when they fear offending those they would most like to help.  Oh, if only those we love would simply tell us what they need, so we feel useful.

This week, someone did.

Juggle People and Events with Google Calendar

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

It's spring - and my calendar - along with everyone else's - is exploding. Juggling work, meetings, errands and medical appointments is challenging enough, but when we add kids schedules, spouse schedules and horrific tasks like "Clean out gutters" - things really explode.  I've spent decades looking for the PERFECT calendar/day book - and spent years toting around a hefty (and expensive) Franklin Planner - and coordinating dates with my husband's planner. (then he left his on top of the truck one day and I discovered the drawback to having everything in one place)

These days my family lives by the Google Calendar. It's free, you can show more than one person's calendar (each kid gets their own color-coded entries) and there are apps to use it on i-phones, androids and the Kindle Fire. My calendar links to my husbands so we always know what's going on - and can both see the various impending kid commitments. You can get the month view - helpful when scheduling appointments, a week view (my favorite) and a daily agenda view. There are also various other calendars you can import (holidays, moon & tide, etc.) as well as task lists. I've put weekly tasks like "Take out trash" on the calendar so one of us might actually remember these important events.  

"I am beautiful; a project against bullying" begins in Cecil County, but touches everyone!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Heroes turn up in unlikely places - but by standing up and speaking out they become the voice of thousands. If you haven't seen the Facebook event "I am beautiful; a project against bullying" you need to check it out as soon as you finish reading this article. Bohemia Manor High School student Emilie Hancharick began this Facebook event to gather photos and information to make a video about the effects of bullying - but it's taken on a life of its own. She has become the champion of thousands, and that number will only continue to grow. 

What strikes me is the creativity and strength of the pictures teens are posting - I am in awe of their voice, their power, their love. They inspire me - and they are inspiring each other. And throughout all of the posts is the clear championing of Emilie for having the courage to begin such a heart wrenching project.  

Bohemia Manor Jr/Sr High School is a small school in Chesapeake City, MD - and my alma mater. My children go there now. So it hits close to home for me. Bullying, teasing, and cyber-stabbing are topics that cause every parent pain - but our words and support can only do so much. Emilie is getting the masses to bond and stand up to the predators. And she's doing it by simply saying - "You are beautiful - and you matter."

Please Don't Eat the Daisies - and other Adventures in Parenting

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Many years ago I read a wonderful memior book by Jean Kerr (another Erma Bombeck), titled "Please Don't Eat the Daisies". It was later made into an equally hysterical movie starring Doris Day.  Kerr (and Day) is flabbergasted to realize her young son needs every rule spelled out, including - don't eat the centerpiece. I loved the book (and movie) and laughed at the concrete lunacy of her son. 

Then, years later, I had a son of my own. Now it all makes sense. And it's less funny ha-ha and more, "I need to sit down and have a stiff drink - now!" I began blogging when he was about five. Because others needed to know when he took off running in a crowded mall - at Thanksgiving. Or when he drew signs on Grandma's perfect closet doors. I knew five-year old boys do these things - and I simply needed to survive until he aged a few more years. 

So now he's ten. And I'm beginning to understand why so many mothers laughed at my preceding statement. He doesn't run away anymore, write on wooden surfaces, or even throw a hissy fit when asked to do some actual work. He seems like an intelligent, helpful boy with a love of Star Wars and video games. 

Except that he's trying to kill me.

The Great Parental Dilemma - When to seek emergency medical care!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Life was much simpler when my children were nursing infants. They screamed with fear, pain, anger, boredom, illness, etc. - and my response was the same. Let them nurse. Bingo. Problem solved. 

These days when they cry I stand there like an idiot, wondering what I'm supposed to do. Nursing no longer seems to be an option - and could possibly get me arrested. But I have this deep rooted aversion to hearing my offspring cry with pain  - and I want a magic wand to make all the bad stuff go away, instantly. 

It doesn't help that most of my children have a pain threshold of negative seven.  And dubious judgement. 

Case in point: my son is known for comedic exaggeration of injuries. A neighbor has forbidden him from using their trampoline because he's always (and immediately) getting hurt on it. No bruises ever form, mind you. The day he tore up his knee in three places he calmly informed me he'd fallen and hurt his knee. I said something brilliant like "Ok" and totally ignored it. He still has the scars - and they're wide, nasty ones.

Bad Mommy.

Amazon has taken over my brain cells and my life - but refuses to take my cellulite!

Dear Amazon,

First of all, hats off to you all. You really do excellent work – and your products are top-notch.  As a long-standing bibliophile (aka – Book Slut),  I rank Amazon right up there with chocolate, coffee – and chocolate covered coffee beans.  The whole Kindle/e-book craze has caused me to load up on more books than I could read in several lifetimes – and that makes me all happy and tingly. (book slut, remember?)

The problem, my dear Amazon, is that you’ve added tempting graphics and interesting apps to my fingertips – and it’s cutting into my reading time.  I did manage to read Silent Tears: A Journey Of Hope In A Chinese Orphanage (AmazonEncore Edition) by Kay Bratt (borrowed for free with my Amazon Prime membership) before I discovered the dreaded Kindle Fire apps (or applications, for the uninitiated).  Now I spend my time playing Monopoly, Life, solitaire and Sudoku – while searching frantically for a Clue app that will work on the Kindle Fire, because I really like that game. Oh, and did you know my old time sucking favorite, Plants vs Zombies, will work on my Fire, too? I don’t mind waiting rooms at all anymore. Well, I never did – I always packed a book or two and was perfectly happy. But now my eyes glaze over and my finger moves across my delightful touch screen and the world disappears – along with quite a few of my working brain cells. I'm not as troubled by the awol brain cells as you would think - but I believe it's only fair if you ALSO take the accompanying saddle bags that have become firmly attached to my backside. Also, if you see my brain anywhere, I'd appreciate its swift return.

I have a plethora of business and self-development books literally at my fingertips – but instead I’m dedicating my time to winning just one more solitaire game. I can’t stop – so I’m forced to take drastic measures. I’ve signed up for a Pinterest account – which I’m told is the new hot social media craze – and more addicting than Facebook. A new addiction is just what I need to break my reliance on you – my dear Amazon. Nothing personal, of course.

I wish you continued success in your journey.

Cyndi Paxton Johnson

(ok, I wrote my article – NOW can I play Monopoly?????) 

Take a Stand, Make that Statement, Slam that Door!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I recently went roller skating for “The Last Time in My Life”.  It wasn’t a difficult decision – and I feel quite convinced I will never change my mind.  Of course, the brace on my left wrist is a constant reminder for the next six weeks.  But I’ve made these statements before – and I’ve never waivered.

About twenty years ago I enjoyed my last motorcycle ride.  No broken bones that time, but it occurred to me that I was spending almost a decade in college to get the most out of my brain, and putting it that close to concrete at 55mph was not the wisest choice.  I’ve never looked back – I’m not afraid to ride, I know it would be most enjoyable, but it’s not an option.  I also made “the last time” declaration for roller coasters a few years ago. I used to love their stomach clenching excitement – but it’s no longer fun.  (and….I think it’s preferable to quit while I’m just not happy, rather than when I’ve lost my lunch on complete strangers while flying upside down – I’m sure they appreciate that more, too!)

What strikes me most about “the last time” statements is the absolute conviction behind them.  I’m done. Period. No discussion, no second guessing, no being talked into another try. I’m DONE. 

What if I took that conviction and applied it to other areas of my life? Is it easier for me to say, “I will NEVER do that again” than to say “I will do xyz from now on”?  See the difference?

Many self-help books say to phrase everything in the positive – that our brains ignore negative statements.  You know, “don’t slam the door” becomes “please close the door quietly”.  Hmmm….thinking about it, I definitely use “Don’t” in my interactions.  I’m ok with that, really. It works for me.

And maybe it’s more powerful for me to say “I will NEVER let the fear of something new hold me back” than to say, “I will embrace challenges whenever possible”.  Maybe it’s a stubbornness thing. Or maybe it’s just easier.

Confessions of a hapless baker....to dough, or not to dough

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I love bakeries - Cake Boss leaves me drooling like a Newfoundland. New York City has amazing bakeries with freshly baked treats arranged in the windows to lure you in like the proverbial moth to the flame. Fortunately I was quite young when I lived there and could breakfast on the large, chocolate filled pastry logs without requiring an extra seat on a plane. (these days I go up a pants size by simply looking in the window)

Ever since I left New York I've strived to re-create the pastry perfection of those dream-filled windows. I've managed, from time to time, to create some rockin' cinnamon rolls, bread, muffins and cakes.

Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving

I don't understand it. How is it possible that it's the end of NOVEMBER already??? Last time I looked, it was the 4th of July and we were concentrating on swimming, hot dogs and fireworks. (I vaguely remember a three-day sugar buzz that could have been Halloween) 

Life is still marching on at an alarming rate. Children grow, loved ones pass and the face in the mirror keeps looking older. (don't get me started on THAT one) Thanksgiving has traditionally been the huge family affair day - complete with turkey, Aunt Edna's stuffing and fighting with relatives. Thanksgiving afternoon we rested, gearing up for Black Friday shopping. 

Hope you didn't really need that nap, because the shopping now starts on Thursday afternoon - and continues the ENTIRE night. If you don't have a full car by 6am Friday morning you've missed it - better luck next year.  I'm starting to feel...annoyed at the entire process.  I'm not a Black Friday star performer, by any means. I've gone out a few times, feeling like an idiot for leaving my warm bed at 4am to score the best deals. Now that seems like a luxury - actually getting to sleep until 4am!

The Memoir "Why I Left the Amish" shatters our illusion of an innocent, Amish childhood

The Amish have always been a part of my life. As a child, we visited Lancaster, PA frequently. Some of my favorite toys were cast iron Amish figures, complete with two children on a see-saw. Today, of course, Amish live among us on the Eastern Shore, and we regularly "brake for buggys". We have Amish markets in Crumpton, Easton and Middletown, DE. I've traveled to an Amish farm near Dover to purchase fresh milk. I even took my children there to play for several hours when the Amish kids had chicken pox- though mine stubbornly refused to contract the illness. 

My vision of an Amish childhood involves lots of animals. chores, laughter, good food and family togetherness. But I'm now reading a book that has me questioning that innocence. 

"Why I Left the Amish", a memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong, has opened my eyes to the possibility of physical, emotional and sexual abuse among the Amish.  Furlong, raised in Ohio, believes her father suffered from some form of mental illness that made him reclusive and violent. The Amish community was unable to deal with the challenges and the children were left to fend for themselves.

The plight of the eldest son is particularly terrifying to me. He was apparently sexually molested while working on a nearby English horse farm, and Furlong believes Amish boys are highly sought after by pediophiles, as they're trained to be obedient and to NOT make waves. This, combined with a physically abusive father, resulted in a young man that could easily show up on a Criminal Minds show as a serial killer.  He tortures rabbits, refusing to let his siblings feed them as he determines how long it takes them to starve to death. He sexually molests his many sisters, resulting in at least one pregnancy. Their mother is aware of the abuse - but does nothing except blame the girls for allowing the behavior.  

Country Canning Corner

Abundance: the inner peace that abounds when we gaze at our overflowing gardens and our stocked pantries and freezers. Canning is simple - we can all learn to preserve and savor nature's bounty!

James R. Coffey

Make Your Own Marmalades!

by James R. Coffey

It's time to start canning! If you've missed my previous posts on HOW to can - you'll need to read them, first! I will share at this time Late Winter and Early spring recipes for seasonal items as they are available. Please feel free to send in your own favorite recipes and we will try to include them. Please include your name, e-mail, and phone number on all submissions. We reserve the right to update recipes, if necessary.

Oranges and Kumquats are in season at this time of the year and now is a good time to make these marmalades.

Orange Marmalade

6 large oranges
5 pounds sugar
1 #2 can crushed pineapple (Do not drain)

When Good Canning Goes Bad!

by James R. Coffey

Preserving food through canning is a fantastic way to enjoy fresh, delicious food year round! There’s nothing sweeter than opening a jar of food you’ve canned yourself – and nothing is more disappointing than realizing the food you’ve worked so hard to preserve is not safe to eat.

This column deals with first identifying spoiled food - and then preventing future occurrences. Yes, you may have a few failed attempts as you learn the art of food preserving- but don’t give up! Save and savor those fresh-picked flavors – all year round! You can do it!

Country Preserving

by James R. Coffey
Preserving the GardenPreserving the GardenWe have over the past two columns discussed the history of canning and the methods involved. Now we will tell you how to can and how to use both a water bath and a pressure canner.

This is also a good time to assemble jars, canning lids, canners and other equipment you will need. Many times once we get into canning season, some supplies run out and are not replaced quickly enough when you really need them. You can find used jars at flea markets, yard sales and even your family members who no longer cans. Purchase your pectin and lids early as your store may run out at the height of the season. Never reuse canning lids at any time. Rummage and Garage Sales as well as E-Bay are a good source to buy pressure canners and water baths. Beware of antique pressure canners as parts may no longer be available for them. I have provided more information in the insert from my canning book:

Methods of Canning through the Ages

by James R. Coffey
Water Bath CanningWater Bath CanningPressure Canner: This is the only method considered safe for canning low acid foods by U.S.D.A. and all canning authorities. A pressure canner is a sealed pot that allows steam to reach above the boiling point of water. This reduces time and gives a greater degree of safety. [we’ll be discussing pressure canning in greater detail in future articles!]

Water Bath: This is the oldest method and the one used by Nicholas Appert. The jars of food are placed on a rack in a pot and the jars are covered with water. When the water boils, the processing time is counted. When the processing time is up, the jars are removed from the bath, allowed to cool and the jars are checked to be sure they are all sealed. This method is also known as cold packing in some areas and the kettle as a cold packer.

This method is recommended for all high acid food. This is fruits, bread spreads, pickles, and most tomatoes, as long as they are acidified. This method was also used for vegetables and other low acid foods. It is still used in the Amish and Mennonite communities for this purpose.

An Introduction to Canning and Equipment

by James R. Coffey
Preserving the GardenPreserving the GardenHome canning is both art and science. Nothing is more satisfying than a full canning storeroom. The science, of course, is that is must be done right or it will not keep.

Canning tidbit: Canning, as we know it today, was invented by Nicholas Appert. This “Father of Canning” was awarded 12,000 Francs for developing his methods – which haven’t changed much through the years. Canning preserves food by sealing it airtight after a heating period which kills the germs and organisms that cause spoilage. If jars do not seal or the heating (processing) period is not long enough the food will spoil.

Why are we talking about canning in February? Because you’ll need to plan your garden around your future canning projects! You’ll also need to gather the necessary equipment. Some people like to can soups and meats in the winter – if so, here’s what you need to get started!

Dad's Shore Life

John's PictureJohn's PictureI'm a lot of things, husband, son, business person, web site guy, photographer, wanna-be artist....the list just goes on; but the mostly, I'm dad.

John K. Johnson

Evening Contrails

Contrails at SunsetContrails at SunsetWe were heading to Cambridge to hear our friend Anne Watts and Boister play their latest CD live, when we got a feast for our eyes.

Life in a Jar -- Irena Sendler

It's time for another look at the email inbox, this time I found one of those emails that sounded to good to be real.  This had to be a made up story, just to get get people to forward it.  Turns out that reality was actually better (worse?) than the email.

I will not go into details, but I will encourage you to follow the links below and read more about this remarkable woman from the old world and the remarkable young women from the new world that gave a story life.

Here is the email, I have inserted dates/corrections in parenthesis to correct the context of the email:

Irena Sendler


There recently (May, 2008) was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer (actually she worked for the health department) specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive' ... She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being Polish.) Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried, and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids..) She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

The Spoiled Under-30 Crowd!

by John K. Johnson

We all have one (or more) friends who send us every stupid email in the world; every dumb joke, every cause - real or not, every outrage (again, real or not).  Most of us delete 99% of these emails and get on with our lives.  Me, I tend to read them, scream at them, research them and send them back to the original sender with the results of my research telling them just how WRONG the email was.

However, every once in a while, you get one that is worth your time, you read it, you enjoy it, you share it with your significant other, or forward it to you email list - or you post it on your website!

THE SPOILED UNDER-30 CROWD!!!

 When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking Twenty-five miles to school every morning....

 Uphill... Barefoot... BOTH ways ...Yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in &*^% I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!
 
But now that... I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today.  You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a $#^% Utopia!

There's a ???? ???? in the Toilet!

You just know that can't be good.

I'm just sitting there, minding my own business, and I hear the sound that makes every parent freeze in their tracks. At least, one of my kids is screaming with that voice; it's the voice that says "There is arterial gushing from my neck region", or "She touched me". I struggle to make out the content of the scream through the door that is separating us.

"There is ???? ______ in ???? upstairs toilet." Oh yeah, I wanted to hear that. Maybe I can pretend to be asleep?

Chickens are tough!

One Tough ChickenOne Tough ChickenIt has started getting cold here on the shore. (Not as cold as Tok, Alaska, -78F last I heard) It has been getting down into the 20s at night and, of course, we are concerned for the newest members of our family.

This is our first winter with chickens and I have been having nightmares about getting up one morning and finding 8 chicken-sicles hanging upside down from the perch in their chicken coop. Guess what, chickens are a lot tougher than they appear.

Discover Space to Live In

Tips on organizing your home


by Debbie Bowden

Get Control of Your Closet!

“What do I do with all these hangers?”

by Debbie Bowden

Empty HangersThat is a frequent response of my client who have gone through a closet purge. It is as if the hangers are whispering sweet nothings, saying “put something on me. I’m lonely up here on this closet rod. How can you stand to just leave me hanging!”

 I help those who suffer from “empty hanger” syndrome by taking the hangers away. Not all the empties; the client and I figure out how many extras are needed by taking a quick inventory of clothing that needs washing, ironing, or dry cleaning. I encourage the client to trash the freebie hangers from the dry cleaners and from purchases.

 Now this can be the really scary part for the client – I tell them that the number of hangers they have right at that moment is finite! That means when they get new clothes, and they don’t have an extra hanger, they must purge something old. This is the ONLY way that a closet is going to stay clutter-free.

Is Sentimental Clutter Making You Miserable?

by Debbie Bowden
Debbie is the owner of
http://www.organizenowmd.com[_new]Organize Now, in Barclay, MD.

We all keep mementos of the past as a trigger for the memory connected to the thing. Presumably the memories attached to the thing are good memories, otherwise, why would we hold on to it? Many are afraid (strong word, but very appropriate) to get rid of the memento for fear the memory will fade also.

That good feeling from the memory triggered by the thing is trumped by the bad feeling of clutter!

What memories will you have 5 10, 15 years from now of your home? Will the plastic flamingo key chain from Florida with one of the legs broken be what you remember? Will you be thinking of the dried carnations from the corsage your boyfriend gave you at the senior prom? Will you remember the gads and gads of STUFF from places you visited (or worse, the gifts from places other people visited)?

The key to finding your keys

by Debbie Bowden
How many times have you misplaced* your keys in your purse? Go ahead, I’ll wait while you recount the number of times.

I have done it myself (it happens to all of us) even though my purse is organized. But a little piggy saved me – here’s how.

I was given an orange piggy key fob. I don’t collect pigs and I don’t like to have a lot of extraneous stuff on my key ring. But I thought, “wait a minute!” What a great tool to have to help me find my keys. The vibrant color makes it perfect to see when I’m searching the depths of my purse. The unusual shape is great to get a hold of when I’m rooting around the pockets. And if by a slim chance my keys are grouped with other sets, I instantly know which set belongs to me.

Have no fear of organizing!

by Debbie Bowden
Fear is a powerful emotion. Most times it causes us to not move forward, to stop in our tracks. Even when our brain is saying, “its ok,” the fearful spirit says, “but I’m afraid.”

Starting the process of organizing can be a scary experience, especially when you bring in an outsider to help.

Here are some things that clients have told me they thought before letting me help:

Being “Clothes” Minded

by Debbie Bowden

Here's an easy way to keep your clothes organized -- use the same color hangers! You will be surprised at how much neater your clothes seem when they are on the same color hangers. White hangers are great, but you can be colorful too (there are even purple hangers out there). And one more thing -- keep a place on the closet rod to hang empty hangers. Once you wear an item, place the empty hanger in this space. That way you don't have the empties jetting out all over the place.

To really get your clothes straight, start by sorting all like items together -- jackets, suits, dresses, skirts, pants, tops. Then organize the like items together by color and hang them up going from dark to light. This method works just as well in dresser drawers -- keep like items together and sort by color.

Organize Your Purse at the Car Wash

by Debbie Bowden

With the recent winter weather, and subsequent road salt, we all are taking our vehicles to the car wash. This is a perfect time to organize your purse and immediate surroundings in your car.

Start with your purse. Take out your wallet, remove all the unnecessary bits of paper, put your money in order, and smile at the picture of your kids (or significant other, or pet for that matter). Set the wallet aside. Move next to the largest item (say a makeup case). Take everything out, throw away old and unused items, and replace everything neatly. Set it aside. If your purse has inside pockets, do the same routine – remove, trash unnecessary items, replace, set aside. Do a quick wipe of the inside of your purse and put everything back. Viola! Your purse is organized (and I bet the car wash isn’t even at the rinse cycle yet).

Move on to the immediate surroundings in the car. Empty the console in the same method as your purse, wipe everything down with a hand-wipe, and put your stuff back. Repeat the process with the glove compartment, door pockets, etc. Do a quick wipe of the dash, squirt some Febreeze, and you are done. As is the car.

Household Quick Tip #1

Quick tip for removing wrinkles

Use water and sunshine to remove wrinkles!Use water and sunshine to remove wrinkles!by Debbie Bowden

Ironing is a necessary evil. But who has the time? So, the ironing piles up and piles up until you’re facing a rack-full of wrinkly garments.

Here’s a tip to remove the wrinkles without the ironing board.

Put your dry clothing on a hanger, button up the shirts, hang the slacks with the crease, and clip the skirts nice and tight. Now, take it all outside to the clothes line. (If you don’t have a clothes line, I advise you to invest in one if you’re able. It saves a ton in energy costs). Hook the hanger over the line, and spritz everything down with water from a spray bottle. As the breeze goes through and the sun shines down, the wrinkles disappear! By the end of the afternoon, that pile of ironing smells fresh and looks wrinkle free.

Note, this trick will not remove stubborn wrinkles and the clothes don't have a pressed/starched look. But for everyday cotton and cotton-blend shirts, pants, and skirts, it is a time-saver, a money-saver, and an energy-saver.

Be Green (as in environmental stewardship) by Managing Green (as in dollar bills)

by Debbie Bowden

Protect the planet and save money tooProtect the planet and save money too
The clutter that many Americans face is because we used to buy more than we needed (or at least more than the space we have). Even in these tough economic times, it is tough to not buy stuff. It is the basis of our economy. We want to grow as a nation.

However, a dollar spent ends up being a dollar cost. The cost is in space – both your space and space at the landfill. When you run out of space and de-clutter, more than half of the stuff will go to the dump.

What it all boils down to is this -- too much stuff comes from too much buying. Building sustainability at home, at work, in your community, starts with better resource management. And resource management starts with not wasteful spending.

Now is the right time for better resource management with a halt to wasteful spending, and thus discover space to live in!

I've Got Too Much Stuff!

Let's talk about that word "stuff." It's a nice word that describes everything one could want to organize -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a label for all the clothes in the closet, all the holiday decorations in the attic, all the trinkets around the living room, all the extra plastic food containers in the kitchen. It's the cast-offs, the mess, the debris. It's the nice vase from your favorite aunt, the jacket you wear once a decade, the lasagna pan you use to bake that delicious apple crumb.

"Stuff" isn't judgmental. The old adage, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," is true, true, true! It is important to not question why someone feels the need to keep a piece of notepaper yet get rid of a perfectly good hammock.

Dude, You Gotta Hear This!

Spotlighting the best of Maryland's music scene.

Travis Mamone

An Afternoon with Chester River Runoff

By Travis Mamone

Despite the rainy and cold weather, Chester River Runoff warmed audiences with an afternoon of toe-tapping bluegrass at Easton’s Night Cat.  With their smooth three-part harmonies, excellent musicianship, and topical lyrics, it’s no wonder that What’s Up Magazine recently named them a band to watch in 2010.

Chester River Runoff has no drummer, so bassist Marc Dykeman and guitarist/singer Ben Arminger provided the rhythm section.  The voices of Arminger, Dykeman, and banjoist Sam Guthridge blended perfectly, while Nate Grower’s fiddle complemented the harmonies.  The set listed included both originals and covers.  Covers included an old Chesapeake Bay sea chanty called “Lynchberg Town,” the Osborne Brothers’ “Up This Hill and Down,” and a John Hardford number that featured an extended fiddle solo by Grower.

The originals included classics like “Old Brown” (a tribute to their maroon touring van), “Breakthrough,” and “Too Many Sunny Days.”  The latter is a true story about a terrible drought that occurred when Guthridge and Arminger used to work on a pumpkin farm.  The boys got topical with the song “Plastic Houses,” which voices fears about overdevelopment ruining the beauty of the Eastern Shore.

                        For future gigs and sound samples, visit their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/chesterriverrunoff.

Review:DEANNA BOGART—LIVE AT NIGHTCAT

By Travis Mamone

No one can deny that Deanna Bogart has soul.  It just seeps through her pores whether she’s singing, blowing her saxophone, or playing the piano.  And this past weekend, fans got a double dose of that soul at Easton’s NightCat.

Bogart draws such a crowd that she had to play two shows this weekend:  one on Friday the 8th and the other on Saturday the 9th.  Opening Saturday’s show with an instrumental jam, Bogart pounded the piano keys and stomped on the floor while Mike Aubin kept time on the drums.  She then launched into the boogie-woogie-inspired “Over Thirty (Down and Dirty),” a song that she claimed she wrote when she was 29.  Bogart stuck with originals, mostly, although she did do a soulful cover of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me.”

Of course her set list included her signature song, “Still the Girl in the Band.”  The bouncy number ended with an extended improvised coda that kept the audiences attention no matter where she went (she even hit a high note on the piano with the heel of her boot).

After a 20-minute break, Bogart and Aubin got back onstage and went straight into “Baby You Got What It Takes.”  Things calmed down a bit during the touching number “Soulache,” written for Bogart’s daughter Alix.  The show ended on a high-spirited note with “Down the Road,” which featured a scat solo by Aubin.

This is the second year Deanna Bogart has played at NightCat, and I don’t think it’ll be her last.  To find out where she’s playing next, go to www.deannabogart.com.

RHIANNA LAROCQUE: RISING STAR

By Travis Mamone

Meet Rhianna LaRocque:  former Severna Park native, current Northeastern University student, and a promising talent.  Her laid back acoustic melodies and stunning voice have already garnered the attention of such seasoned veterans as Rob Levitt. 

Q:  How did you get into music? Was there a lot of music in your house?
A:  I always loved music, but was always too shy to sing in front of people. It was really when my aunt's boyfriend came to our house for a visit and taught me couple chords on the guitar. For about six months, I sat in my room for hours at a time and practiced. An opportunity arose to perform when I decided I wanted to audition for a school production, and for that audition I sang in front of people for the first time. After that, I realized playing music was what I wanted to do.

My grandmother was a singer, but nobody in my immediate family plays any instruments. My mom claims my musical abilities came from her playing The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and James Taylor when I was a baby.

Q:  Who were some of your influences?
A:  There is a ridiculously long list of artists that influence me, but to name a few, Joni Mitchell, Andrew Bird, Wilco, Feist, and Radiohead. I'm also lucky enough to be surrounded by a ridiculously talented group of friends, and I get a lot of ideas, support, and input from them.

Q:  When did you start writing songs?
A:  My first few songs were written in tenth grade about a failed relationship. They're really quite silly to me now, but it's cool to look back at how I've changed in the last few years.

Q:  What inspires your music?
A:  Honestly, I wish this wasn't the case, but for the most part...boys.

INTERNATIONAL JET SET AND BLACKWATER REFUGEES

INTERNATIONAL JET SET AND BLACKWATER REFUGEES—LIVE AT THE GREEN TURTLE

By Travis Mamone

Despite a crappy soundboard, local bands International Jet Set and Blackwater Refugees delivered an outstanding show this past Friday at the Green Turtle in Easton, MD.  And with a standing-room only crowd, it turned out to be the sports bar’s biggest show to date.

            Blackwater Refugees, a new alt-country trio from Easton, was the first act.  Led by Mike Shorter on bass and vocals, the band takes the grit of old school country and adds a twist of rock and roll.  At first it was unclear whether or not the Refugees would get to perform, since the soundboard blew out right when they were set to begin.  But after some tinkering, the boys kicked off their 40-minute set with signature song “County Jail.”  The Refugees did mostly originals, but through in a few covers, including “D.U.I. or Die” by Those Darlins.  That was supposed to be their last song, but after a couple of audience members called for one more song, Shorter yelled, “I can’t disappoint my fans” into the mic, and the boys delivered a killer encore.

JAYME PLOFF AND MINUS ONE—LIVE AT NIGHTCAT

By Travis Mamone

           After a few months off, Jayme Ploff returned to NightCat on August 29 singing jazz with the trio Minus One.  And it was well worth the wait!  Her expressive and dynamic voice dominated throughout the evening, and Minus One’s classic jazz sound proved to be the perfect match for Jayme.

            Minus One opened with four tunes.  Their sound is reminiscent of the classic piano-led jazz trio sound of Vince Guaraldi.  Musically all three members--Rodrigo Pinchiera on keyboard, Bob Kammann on drums, and Gary Barnes on bass—were perfectly in tune, giving each other enough room to follow the songs wherever they lead.  Barnes, however, was the one to watch for during his impressive bass solos.

            After a short break, Minus One returned to the stage with Jayme on the mic.  The set list both opened and closed with two of her original compositions.  The opener, “Imperfect Me,” would fit perfectly in Cole Porter’s songbook, while the closing “Noah’s Song” was a sweet and beautiful lullaby written for Jayme’s newborn nephew.  The rest of the songs were jazz standards.

TOMMY: AN AMAZING JOURNEY

by Travis Mamone

Easton High School has done it again with their production of the Who’s rock opera “Tommy.” Under the direction of Tom Quimby, the cast and crew bring Pete Townshed’s masterpiece to life with excitement, drama, humor, and great rock and roll.

Based on the Who’s 1969 double-album, “Tommy” tells the story a boy who, after witnessing his father kill his mother’s lover, becomes psychosomatically deaf, mute, and blind. He is abused by his Uncle Ernie and Cousin Kevin, grows up to be a champion at pinball, and, when he regains his senses, becomes a messianic figure to his fans.

“Tommy” was made into a move in 1975, and then went to Broadway in 1993. Easton High performs the Broadway version, so don’t expect to see Tommy’s mom roll around in a pool of beans.

But do expect to see an outstanding cast that includes Jacob Porch as Tommy, Sarah Lowe as Tommy’s Mother, Shane Taylor as Captain Walker, and Matt Filbert as Uncle Ernie. Filbert is a standout; he can bring out both the humorous and lecherous sides of Uncle Ernie convincingly. Another cast member to take notice of is 7th grader Ian Young, who plays Tommy as a child. He’s mostly quiet during the first act, but in the second act he finally gets a chance to display his tremendous voice.

Jordan Page

By Travis Mamone

Jordan PageJordan Page
“Listen to the sound that you hear,” Jordan Page sings, “like an echo in your head/ there’s a strange vibration rising/ from the heart of America.” Page challenges his audience to do just that: listen. Listen to what’s going on in the world, to what our leaders are doing, and to an incredible local talent with a powerful message.

His brand of acoustic rock--a mixture of Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam, among other influences--is a powerful call-to-arms against injustice and war. "I will not submit to authority of man/ I'm alive I'm awake," Page announces on the percussion-driven "Listen." "Song for Bob" is an acoustic plea for peace dedicated to Dylan. “You taught us that war is a sin and a sham and a shame,” he sings, “and the penance we pay for our silence is more than just taking the blame.” But Page also has a softer side. “Evergreen” is a catchy, romantic song dedicated to his wife. “My love is evergreen,” he sings, “she’s got the ways and means to give me the heart of my desire.”

To find out more about Jordan Page, visit his website at www.jordanpagemusic.com.

Spotlight: Jayme Ploff

By Travis Mamone

Jayme PloffJayme Ploff
For the past couple of years Jayme Ploff has been dazzling audiences across the Eastern Shore with her soulful and dynamic voice. Originally a jazz singer (she studied Jazz Vocal Performance at the University of Miami), her repertoire also includes pop covers and original songs. Whatever she sings, her voice brings each song to life.

Ploff has two CDs; the first is a four-track demo of original compositions. “Release the Beast” is an empowering anthem written after some one referred to its author as a female dog. “Take your lips and plant them firmly on my ass,” she snarls, “’cause I’ve been to your house and I know you built it out of glass.” “My Life” explores the struggle between our parents’ wishes and our desires. “I hate to tell you it’s a fact of life,” she sings, “not everything you say and do is right/ I go my own way.”

Ploff also has a live jazz CD, which features standards like “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “Blame it on My Youth,” and “Besame Mucho” (the only song Ploff says she knows in Spanish).

For more information, go to her website. And if you go to any of her shows, she likes it when the audience says, “Woo-hoo!” Just something to keep in mind.

Punk Rock at Easton Historical Society

Procrastination RecordsProcrastination Records

by Travis Mamone

Local punk bands Press Black, World Class Defects, and Psycho Rainbow will perform at the Historical Society in Easton, MD this Saturday, January 24th, at 7 p.m. The show celebrates the release of a new album featuring Press Black and World Class Defects. According to Press Black’s MySpace blog, the CD “will have four unreleased originals from each band, and each band covering one of the other band’s songs.”

For those expecting radio-friendly pop punk like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte, look elsewhere! Press Black and World Class Defects--from Easton and Greensboro, respectfully—are bringing back the original sound and attitude of classic hardcore punk. These aren’t catchy little numbers about skater boys and high school proms; these guys sing about destruction, mind control, death, and nonconformity.

Psycho Rainbow is an up-and-coming indie band from New York. Don’t let their huge ironic sunglasses fool you—these guys have the talent! Their blend of psychedelic, surfer rock, and noise pop make them a band worth seeing live.

Coffee Cat: What's In a Name?

By Travis Mamone

The Coffee Cat in EastonThe Coffee Cat in EastonMany of you have noticed several changes with Coffee East coffee shop in Easton, MD, especially their name. Is it Coffee East, Coffee Cat, Night Cat, or what? And will anything else change? Hopefully this will clear things up.

Coffee Cat is the café portion, where you can order lattes, sandwiches (try the chicken Panini with goat cheese!), and pastries. Night Cat is where you can see live shows every weekend from a variety of artists. It’s the same building, of course.

But why change the name? As you may or may not know, the coffee shop is now under new management. The same people who now own Coffee Cat also own Hair o’ the Dog Wine and Spirits. So to keep with the pet theme, Coffee East

Erin's Bookshelf

Erin Mawn

Meet Illustrator Michael Hague

Alice in Wonderlandby Erin Mawn

This post is not not about a book, but an illustrator. Some people do not understand what appeal children’s books have to a ‘grown-up’, but personally I cannot see how they are able to resists the temptations of them! Their covers call to me, the artwork inside is slipping into childhood again; to spend hours just leafing through books, absorbing the drawings and memorizing them so that I can see them again in my memory whenever I like is a great privilege.

I was fortunate enough to meet one of my favorite illustrators recently. I was visiting relatives in Colorado and was informed that there was to be a book signing with this illustrator, whom I had a corresponded with before on a couple of occasions.

Michael Hague has illustrated classics such as The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, and The Secret Garden. He also illustrates books written by his wife, Kathleen Hague who has penned the popular books Alphabears and Good Night, Fairies.

Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier

by Erin Mawn "The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier" I recently finished reading the biography of Sarah Emma Edmonds, one of the women who, during the Civil War, disguised herself as a man and fought in the conflict. It was a fascinating book- and I don’t think that’s just because I’m a “History geek”. I think anyone who is interested in women’s history, American history, the Civil War, or likes stories about spies would enjoy this book as well. The book is a fairly easy read; it explains ideas such as the ‘Cult of Domesticity’ which is well known to history scholars, but may not be familiar to other readers. The narrative of the book focuses mainly on the life of ‘Emma’, but in the chapters which deal heavily with the war and the military campaigns during it, the author includes much information about George McClellan. This is meant to help the reader understand the battles the Army of the Potomac fought in and the outcomes of these battles. ‘Emma’, or Frank Thompson as she was called, served in the Michigan regiment of the Potomac as a nurse, mail carrier, and a spy.

Perfection for Bibliophiles

Unicorn BookshopUnicorn Bookshopby Erin Mawn

If you’re not sure what a bibliophile is, then you’re probably not one. A bibliophile is a person who loves or collects books, although I think in many cases this is an understatement. This word enters my head numerous times a day as I wander about my house; every room in my home has some sort of book collection in it. History books (categorized by topic, of course) , classic literature, children’s books (despite the fact that I have no children, I have two bookcases filled with them), some precious signed copies of favorite books, and antique books that emit a wonderful musty smell that only old books have. . .I frequently attempt to reduce the number in my collection by giving them away, selling them or trading them but somehow I always end up bringing more books. I comfort myself with the idea that as long as my selection is ever-changing, it cannot be considered “hoarding” behavior.

In one of my recent efforts to rid myself of some excess books, I ventured out to The Unicorn Bookshop in Trappe, MD. It is one of those wonderful places where the bibliophile feels completely at home, and as a favorite literary (and film) heroine of mine once said, “There’s no place like home.” The store is packed from floor to ceiling with books for every browser and collector; most impressive is the selection of rare and signed books, including a drool-worthy authenticated, signed masterpiece signed by Samuel Clemens. (If that name isn’t familiar, then you’re definitely not a bibliophile).

Spiritual Currents

“Spiritual Currents” is a regular column that promotes and explores the Mid-Shore’s deep spiritual diversity—with “spirituality” broadly defined as our search for enduring meaning in life. This ongoing quest can unfold within religious traditions and without them, within our relationships and in solitude.

If you would like to share a local event or a personal story that reflects this journey on the Shore, please contact me here (put “Spiritual Currents” as the subject line).

Dwayne Eutsey

The Spiritual Path of Karate

By Dwayne Eutsey

If you lived on the Shore during the ‘70s, you probably recall some of the hokey TV commercials that used to air on DC stations like Channel 20 or Channel 5. One that I loved showed Jhoon Rhee, a Grand Master in tae kwan do, performing amazing martial arts feats in slow motion while his cheesy musical jingo encouraged us to “Call USA-1000, Jhoon Rhee means might for right.”

At the end a little Asian girl would confidently say, “Nobody bothers me,” followed by an even younger Asian boy who would proclaim, “Nobody bodders me, either” before giving us a wink.

I remember wanting so badly to call USA-1000 so that I could learn to leap in the air and kick without wearing a shirt like Jhoon Rhee did. The martial arts, after all, were very cool at the time. They seemed to be everywhere in pop culture. There was the popular weekly TV show “Kung Fu,” Bruce Lee flicks were playing in movie theaters, and Top 40 radio informed us that “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” and that those cats were fast as lightning.

Martial arts were even reflected in our toys. Topping the Christmas list of every boy I knew in elementary school was the GI Joe action figure with kung-fu grip.

Unfortunately for me, however, Jhoon Rhee taught his ancient Eastern discipline in the far-away and exotic land of Arlington, Virginia and, as far as I knew, there were no local martial arts schools ( “dojos”) on the Shore at the time.

A Buddhist Wizard of Oz

By Dwayne Eutsey

Suppose I were to give you the following clues and asked you to name the story they describe:

  • A young and somewhat naïve individual follows a path on a strange journey to a colorful place where special information they need can be found.
  • At separate points along the way, the young person encounters and befriends three peculiar characters (one of them a talking animal) who each agrees to join the person on their journey to the colorful place.
  • When the four characters arrive at their ultimate destination, the young person discovers that the information they thought they were seeking wasn’t really what they were expecting to find.

You’d be correct if you said these clues resemble the basic plot of The Wizard of Oz, but that’s not the story I have in mind. The one I’m thinking of is Journey to the West, a classic folk novel from China.

Written in the 1590s, Journey to the West follows the legendary quest (based loosely on an actual journey) of Tripitaka, a young Buddhist monk from China who makes a long and difficult trip to retrieve sacred Buddhist scriptures from India. Along the way, he meets the magical Monkey King (who is as recognizable in Chinese culture as Mickey Mouse is in ours); the loutish Pigsy; and the strong and ever-patient Sandy.

Lent: A Time for Deepening Our Lives as the Days Grow Longer

By Dwayne Eutsey

I had every intention of writing a column last week about Lent in time for it to be published here on Ash Wednesday, the day this traditional Christian observance begins.

Ironically, though, I wasn’t able to write the column because I found myself too busy juggling work deadlines, family issues, and getting sucked into the distracting time-drains on TV and the Internet.

I say ironically because the fact that I couldn’t write something about Lent because my life was too hectic and unfocused is why this time of introspection is so important for everyone, regardless of your spiritual world view.

Maybe it’s because the winter doldrums have frozen me in a monotonous combination of cold weather, cabin fever, and shoveling endless snow, but I find myself functioning on automatic pilot a lot lately…just dully going through the motions.

I’m ready to shake off the ice and sing a lively version of “Here Comes the Sun.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZtQh5EIgWQ

Apparently, that’s not far from the original meaning of “Lent.” According to the BBC, the word is derived from the old English word for “lengthen” and refers to how the days begin to lengthen during this time of year as spring approaches. The site also defines the religious Lenten observance as:

Remembering Black History on the Shore

By Dwayne Eutsey

With all the snow we’ve had to dig out from lately, it’s easy to forget that February is Black History Month. http://www.history.com/content/blackhistory

This observance originally began as Negro History Week in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson, the largely self-educated son of former slaves who went on to receive a PhD from Harvard, wanted to establish a time for remembering and celebrating the significant contributions African Americans have made to our national history.

Woodson initially set this observance during the second week in February because two major figures in African American history were born during that week: Frederick Douglass, the former slave and outspoken abolitionist who escaped from Talbot County, was born on February 14; Abraham Lincoln, the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending chattel slavery in the United States, was born February 12.

The week became a month-long observance in 1976 and is also known as African American Heritage Month. In addition to Frederick Douglass, the Eastern Shore has made a few other noteworthy contributions to that heritage.

There is Harriet Tubman, of course. Growing up in Dorchester County back in the ‘70s, I remember learning a lot about how she bravely helped hundreds of slaves escape from the Shore through the Underground Railroad. http://www.midshorelife.com/content/harriet-tubman%E2%80%99s-legacy-lives

However, one piece of history I didn’t learn much about when I was school kid on the Shore was the important role Cambridge played in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Maybe that history was too recent and too raw for teachers to make sense of and to teach at the time, but I don’t remember learning anything about it in school. I did overhear, occasionally, vague references adults made about that time, and I even remember when I was almost 4 years old that my grandfather made me scrunch down in the backseat of his car as he drove me and my mom through a riot-torn section of Cambridge.

Howard Zinn’s Undying Faith in Democracy

By Dwayne Eutsey

Someone I admired very much, activist historian Howard Zinn, died recently at age 87.

Howard ZinnYou may know Zinn from a book he wrote in 1980 called A People’s History of the United States. With over 1 million copies sold since its publication, this landmark (and controversial) volume retells American history from the point of view of “common people” often not included in our official historical narrative—Native Americans, slaves, workers, the poor, women, pacifists, anarchists, unionizers.

Last month, the History Channel broadcast “The People Speak”, a documentary co-produced, incidentally, by Easton native Chris Moore and his friend, actor Matt Damon. With Zinn narrating, the film featured the likes of Morgan Freeman, Marisa Tormei, and Bruce Springsteen reading and singing words from the original letters, songs, diaries, and speeches that Zinn used to write A People’s History and other works. (http://www.history.com/content/people-speak)

Coming from a working-class background myself, I am forever in debt to Zinn for showing me how this often marginalized group is actually an integral strand among many other strands that together make up our national history. His inclusive view of American identity is true to our country’s unofficial motto, E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

A Serious Man Ponders "Why Me?"

By Dwayne Eutsey

Like many people, I’ve been dismayed by the devastating earthquake in Haiti recently.

The rising death toll (possibly in the hundreds of thousands), the heart-wrenching suffering, the inability to get medical aid and food supplies to the homeless survivors in a fast and effective way…It’s all been depressing, frustrating, and overwhelming.

As overpowering as the news coverage of this disaster can be, though, unless you know someone affected by the suffering there, it’s easy enough in our media-driven culture to tune out the bad news and tune into something more pleasant.

It’s like Rev. Jim, a character on the classic ‘70s sitcom Taxi, once wryly observed, “You know the really great thing about television? If something important happens anywhere in the world, night or day…you can always change the channel.” Or to update it for our times: surf the web, pop in a DVD, etc.

The Magic of Winter?

By Dwayne Eutsey

(This column is adapted from a lay sermon I delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton on Sunday, December 27, 2009).

I’m not a big fan of winter. In fact, I can be downright Scrooge-like when it comes to this time of year.

What little there may be to like about winter is lost to me among my sore back from shoveling an endless layer of snow; driving on dangerously icy roads with the tires of other vehicles spitting and splattering that brown salty glop all over my car; paying those crushingly high heating bills; suffering through colds and flues, numb fingers and toes, and the never-ending sniffly, snotty noses.

With all that going on, is it any wonder I cringe when I hear those sappy songs about winter that we hear around this time? Songs like:

When it snows, ain't it thrilling,

Though your nose gets a chilling

We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,

Walking in a winter wonderland.

Especially as I dug out after the recent big snow storm, all I can say to that winterist propaganda is: Bah humbug!

When I think it about it, though, maybe like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol I’ve allowed myself to become so consumed by the cold, dark, and dreary aspects of this season that I have forgotten the magical light of the season that’s shining all around me.

Shining a Candle on the Miracle of Our Wonderful Life

By Dwayne Eutsey

Although I’m something of a cynic when it comes to over-sentimentalized movies, I can’t help but be a fan of that corny but heartfelt holiday flick, It’s a Wonderful Life.

There’s just something uplifting about the story of how the beleaguered George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart with homespun American hope and defiant scrappiness) triumphs over Old Man Potter’s warped and self-centered view of life.

If you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, you can probably recite from memory when George, after his father’s death, tells the banker/slumlord Mr. Potter why his father’s savings and loan sought to help give ordinary working people a decent life:

“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him.”

Although it’s nice to fantasize about living in such a world shaped by George Bailey’s economic idealism, unfortunately, evidence increasingly suggests that more and more of us are struggling just to hang on in grim financial Pottersvilles.

According to Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the banking bailouts:

“Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can't make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street.”

Celebrate Gratitude in Tough Times

 By Dwayne Eutsey

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about making gratitude a more active, integral part of my daily life.

Thanksgiving is a great ti,e for everyone in the community to share food and music and celebrate the many things we have to be thankful for. Even though times are tough, there is still much to be grateful about.

Now, a moment of confession. As much as I believe all this talk about thankfulness, I have to admit that grousing about life’s sucky situations can sometimes be a lot easier for me (and maybe even more satisfying) than expressing gratefulness. In fact, trying to be thankful during particularly difficult times can even seem annoyingly superficial to me at times, like I’m avoiding harsh reality.

However, according to the results of a study done earlier this decade, the daily practice of gratitude can apparently not only help you better face reality; it can actually improve your reality as well.

Thanksgiving: A Lesson in Gratitude and Hospitality

 By Dwayne Eutsey

Every year around this time when I was a kid, I remember learning in school about the origin of this month’s big holiday.

As we made pilgrim hats and Indian headbands out of construction paper, the teacher told us the familiar story of how the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving together in 1621. It’s a nice story about the Indians teaching the pilgrims how to plant their first crops in the New World and the pilgrims inviting the Indians over for a feast to thank them and God for the harvest.

However, as with many of our national myths, the story we were taught in school is greatly embellished. In fact, beyond two brief accounts written by pilgrims Edward Winslow and William Bradford we know very little about what happened during this event. There was a harvest feast in Plymouth and Indians were there, but a lot of the rest is open to interpretation.

http://www.pilgrimhall.org/1stthnks.htm

The Centrevillain

"a funky blog about life in downtown Centreville, the capital of Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore"

Mary McCarthy

Centreville's Jumping Jack

by Mary McCarthy

If you frequent downtown Centreville, you've probably seen him. At first, he appears to be walking beside his owner but soon you notice him jump vertically into the air. Vertically...as in STRAIGHT UP!
jumping jack
This aerial canine is known as Jumping Jack, owned by the Gearharts on Chesterfield Avenue (he's shown in the pictures with his mom Trish). Believe it or not, he's 4 years old. The family adopted him to join their other dog Molly, a cocker spaniel, from the Caroline County Humane Society. What kind of breed is he?

Owner Paul says,

"People often ask or try to guess what kind of dog he is.  He obviovously has some terrier in him.  Maybe some aikido too because of his curved tail.  We often tell stories about our mix breed dogs and for jack we often use the Jumping Japanese Terrier story.   They are quite rare because during the famine many of them were eaten, however Zen Monks took the breed in and some have survived to this day!  Most people have never seen one."

Kids in town love Jumping Jack. They always ask why he jumps. Paul says,
"The jumping is something that he has always done and we don't know why.  Why do teen age boys jump up and down on their skateboards?  It is the same maybe for Jack the Jumping Dog of Centreville."

Well it's no doubt that Jack is quickly become the energetic mascot of downtown Centreville; he brings a smile to all who see him.

Jump on , Jack!

FAIR ENOUGH! (Queen Anne's Fair, That is!)

by Mary McCarthy
As we all know from Charlotte's Web, a fair is a veritable smorgasbord (orgasbord).
And this week is the long-awaited Queen Anne's County fair week! Due to an ill-timed vacation, I am going to miss the fair this week and do you know why this makes me excruciatingly sad? Because I was asked to judge. THE COOKIES! I am doing that smack-in-the-head "I coulda had a V8" thing, because I had the chance to judge the fair one other time. But it was the breads and this time I got promoted to COOKIES and uggghhh I promised them I'd time my vaca better next year!

If you haven't seen the fair schedule, here are some highlights of the things that are my QAC Fair faves:

Um- the food! Hello! This lineup ensures no one will have to cook at home for a while week!

Monday Aug 10:
Pit Ham Dinner 4-7 p.m.
Tuesday Aug 11: Crab Cake Dinner 4-7 p.m.
Wednesday Aug 12: Chicken Barbeque Dinner 4-7 p.m.
Thursday Aug 13: Pork Barbeque Dinner 4-7 p.m.
Friday Aug 14: Barbeque Beef Dinner 4-7 p.m.

Hayden's Alley: In Search of a New Business

by Mary McCarthy

Probably the saddest thing in Centreville at the moment is the fact that our adorable coffee shop (once Hayden's Alley, then JPJ Coffee) is vacant. Now, fortunately, we have Sugar Magnolia downtown, so local employers and employees can get their caffeine fixes.

But once upon a time Hayden's Alley carried yummy, yummy pastries from Village Bakery up in Chestertown and I used to love me some Apple Fritter. I actually remember walking up there and getting warm muffins out of the boxes when the delivery truck came from Chestertown. Heaven.

Before Hayden's, the Commerce Street shop was actually a liquor store, and I used to love walking up there for a bottle of wine for dinner. But having the cute historic building (with its cool upstairs views of the courthouse) closed is a sad state of affairs. (Probably the only thing sadder in town is the UGLY ELECTRIC LINES than run down our National Historic District main street!)

I am hopeful someone will come along and transform Haydens once again into a thriving downtown business, like Serendipidee and Belle Maison are. Thank God there's always lunch at Julia's! I am headed there today because I would kill or die for the Crab and Avocado Salad that David so expertly prepares.

Bowling For Hollahs

Queen Anne's Bowlingby Mary McCarthy

I love bowling. Although I often find myself to be a sub-par soccer mom, I loved the time I was a Bowling Mom. If you can sit in an air conditioned building and eat a sausage, cheese and fried egg sandwich or even order a beer while watching your kids play their sport, you have hit Sports Parent Paydirt! The kids duckpin bowling league in the fall takes place on Saturday mornings and is lots of fun.

The Queen Anne’s Bowling Centre is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Centreville- about 10 miles up the road on Rt. 213 North. It’s a great place for indoor birthday parties, but my favorite thing to do with the kids is go up there on a summer Wednesday evening. From 5 to 10 pm on Wednesdays, it’s Family Night. This means that, for $9 a person, you get 2 games of bowling, 2 slices of pizza, a soda and bowling shoes. So a family of four gets a night out together for $36- not including the all-important Ms. Pac Man quarters or a candy bar from the machine!

 

Centreville Alive!

by Mary McCarthy
Centreville Alive is - well, alive and kicking. The Block Party last Friday night was FANTASTIC! Attended by several hundred citizens of our lovely burb, the event was coordinated and DJ’ed by Bob at Optical Galleria along with his great crew of downtown businesses and residents.

Water Street was closed between Liberty and Commerce and there was a stage featuring the band Flashback (with guitarist Rick from Edwards Pharmacy!) and even a dance floor. There were dance contests, hula hoop contests, and costume contests. Not a lot of people dressed up, which helped my chances of winning- which I did with my sorta outlandish looking 80s attire. I was the only one ‘representin’ the decade, so I proudly bore my Boy Toy belt buckle, yellow Ray Bans and vintage Ms. Pan Man shirt. My prize was donated by Price and Gannon and is a FANTASTIC gardening set- how’d they know I’m a gardener?!

Costume Party in Centreville!


by Mary McCarthy
Ooh, DRESS-UPS, everybody! This is so exciting for lil old downtown Cville, especially in the middle of the summer when we are all sort of ‘blah’ (and I’m all sort of ‘WHEN DOES SCHOOL START?!’).

DO.NOT.MISS the Centreville BLOCK PARTY this Friday night, July 17 from 6:30-9pm on West Water Street in the block in front of Optical Galleria and Cottage Cuts. The street will be closed to traffic (cool!) and the theme is “Flashback to Days Gone By.” The event is being held by CENTREVILLE ALIVE! (sorry- it just begs for capital letters and an exclamation point) which is a cool local group dedicated to revitalizing downtown Centreville (hopefully their mission #1 is getting somebody back into the old Hayden’s Alley Coffee Shop building! And then maybe changing the lame outdated "Welcome to Centreville" sign that still hangs on the side of the Centreville National Bank building.)

There will be vintage cars, a Hula Hoop contest (in which I will- er- NOT be participating!) and a band called, appropriately, FLASHBACK. Best part of the Block Party Friday night, though? THE COSTUME CONTEST! I usually have to wait until my killer Halloween party to see grown-ups all decked out in costume finery, but this Halloween-in-July event means we can all rock our favorite decade in history- for prizes!

Summer Fun on the Mid Shore!

by Mary McCarthy
Had a fantastic opportunity the other night to attend a cool waterfront summer concert in Georgetown. If you haven’t been over to the
http://www.kittyknight.com/[_new]Kitty Knight House (far up 213N, after Galena), for God’s sake, GO. You can bring the kids, the outdoor waterfront dining area is fabulous. The views of the Sassafrass River are gorgeous- there’s a huge marina, ice cream shop, pool, and of course - a waterfront bar!

I was invited by my pals from Jack the Penguin. In case you have not heard of them, these are a bunch of guys from Northbrook- that’s right, the subdivision here in little Cville has produced this fantastic, laid back, coolio little band. They sing Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brian Adams, Jimmy Buffett, you name it. In fact, they sing Def Leppard by request- the form of my request this past weekend was a cloth napkin on which I had written, IN KETCHUP, “Def.” (They do a sweet acoustic version of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”) Their motto, if you check out their
http://www.myspace.com/jackthep[_new]Myspace page, is “Music For Drunk Girls To Dance To, Since 2003.”

Centrevocabulary

by Mary McCarthy
If you are a newcomer to Centreville, you will need a little vocabulary lesson. We moved to Cville in 2001, then I served on the Centreville Town Council (2004-2007), so the last 8 years have offered ample opportunity for me to learn the lingo of the land. Here’s a little list to help you get started:

Chicken Necker: This means, according to Urban Dictionary:

“Slang commonly used on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to describe a tourist or someone who is not from that area. Comes from the practice of using chicken necks as crab bait.

Eg: These g.d. chicken neckers always turn 50/301 into a parking lot during weekends in July.”

Although I do not use chicken necks to catch crabs (my preferred method is driving to a crab seller and catching them in brown paper bags), I am considered a chicken necker because I do not have three or more generations of family members in an Eastern Shore cemetery. I embrace my chicken necker-ality. If you complain about something in Centreville, natives are happy to remind chicken neckers that ‘the bridge is free on the way back.’

Things to Love in Downtown Centreville

by Mary McCarthy
I’m completely prejudiced. I moved my family here from Frederick because I wanted to live in a cool downtown, where I could walk to get a loaf of bread, my kids could ride bikes to the library, and neighbors pass by your front porch and say ‘hey.’

So I love downtown Centreville. Love. It.

What’s to love?

The town, founded in 1794, is laid out around the oldest courthouse in continuous operation in the state of Maryland. We have a fantastic collection of Colonial and Victorian architecture, from which I was pleased to create a National Register Historic District for the town in 2004, so that historic property owners (um, that’s owners of historic houses, though I am starting to feel a bit historical myself since I turned 40 last month!) could take advantage of the state historic tax credits for rehabilitation.

Cool Picnic Spots

by Mary McCarthy
Hey, welcome back, fellow Centrevillains!

This week, in honor of the end of the traditional school season (and the potential cries of “I’m bored!”) , we’re going to take a look at a few quick family summer picnic spots, each within a half hour of our lovely hometown of Centreville, Maryland.

Wye? Wye Not!

It’s one of the best-kept secrets of our local area, but have you had a chance to take your friend/family/self-and-book by the town of Wye Mills lately? It’s less than 15 minutes from downtown Centreville (take Rt 213, past Rt 50, and left when Rt 213 ends at Rt 662 in Wye Mills). You can park at the little fishing pond, visit the historic working Wye Mill, check out the site where the Wye Oak fell, and definitely stop at the Wye Mill Country Store, next to the post office, for sandwiches and snacks. You can have a picnic on one of the picnic tables under the trees behind the Wye Mill, with the stream babbling beside you. Don’t forget to watch the old waterwheel turn at the mill, and you can buy the fresh-ground flour and cornmeal! Also nearby (at the end of Carmichael Road) is Wye Island National Park, which has trails, fishing spots, and a tiny beach park at the end of a long wooded trail.

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