Getting Started, Storytelling

Storytelling for the kick- off program for Library Lovers Month for a County library this morning so I am up early - in the dark. I want to go over my stories, get my stuff together and primp.

But first - I have the settle.
The computer is my settling place. I check my emails. See what's happened on my blog. Has anybody stopped by? And then - I travel. I surf.
I never know what my jumping off place will be. Its random. This morning I stepped into cyber space from 37 Days. There was an email notice of a Life is a Verb Reading today from Patti in my email. It led me to Random Arts.

Random Arts is a bookstore and art space in Saluda, NC. I loved the GALLERY page. Will have to tell Betsy about the "button vases". We were talking just the other day about the button gardens we made when we were in Girl Scouts. (Betsy remembers that whole thing a bit more positively than I do. Hers must have looked better than mine. Ah, well!). Random Arts is just y kind of place. I know if I ever get to Saluda I am stoppping by.

Glancing down her blog listI settled on a journaling blog - Sending Pages Out To Dry. which whisked me to Atlanta This blog belongs to an interesting artist - a journaling writer and artist who makes artist books - now how right could that be for me?

Whoops. Its getting light outside. Out of time. Have to get to work. Storytelling this morning, you know.

Telling Stories

Its always a bit of a kick to walk into a gig and see my face on a poster.

This morning I told a family program of folktales - all seletced from library section 398.2. I enjoy these stories. They are old because they are good.

I chose tales from different cultures - China, Europe, The Middle East.

They are fun to tell.

Afterwards children came up to me:
"I loved your stories." from a second grader.
"I liked the one about the tablecloth. She would not have to worry about cooking anymore." (The Old Woman and the North Wind) This from a girl who looked to be about nine or ten years old. Isn't that a great reaction to a story about a woman who has just been given a magic tablecloth that will give her delicious food whenever she tells the cloth to "Spread cloth spread."

A man who was there with a young child stopped me and asked for advice on "how to encourage her imagination."
"Talk to her, tell her stories about you, your wife, your family. Bring her to the library and read to her. Let her make the pictures in her mind. Like you did listening to the storytelling this morning." His eyes got it. He nodded. "I gotcha."

I love storytelling.


Blogging, Classic Movies, Amends

1. Blogging
Ever hear or read something and its like the author is saying it for you? I checked-in here this morning and there it was - the melody of my song.

2. Classic Movies
You may have guessed. I love movies.
Yesterday TCM showed two good oldies - favorites of mine.

I Remember Mama , the 1940s Irene Dunne Classic and Yours ,Mine and Ours, the 1968 original version with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. I don't have to stop and watch them. They play in the background. I know them by heart. It is like re-reading a favorite book - always worth it.

What are they about? what appeals to me? Love, family,parenting, relationships, forgiveness. That's good for starters. They have heart - the very thing the filmakers took out of the recent version of Yours, Mine and Ours. They replaced heart with slapstick. What does that say?

3. Amends

It happened this morning. I lost it. And an innocent by-stander, a total stranger, felt the down draft from me of something that had nothing to do with her what-so-ever.

I don't know what tripped my fuse. Well I do, but its not worth going into And like those things go it wasn't one thing it was a collection of things. A pile of them.

After the air cleared I felt terrible. I could see that I was not the one injured here. Repentant, I called back and apologized. Graciously, she accepted. Book closed.

Forgiveness is healing. Freeing.

Forgiveness - the fuel for moving on.


Red Letter Day for Women

Alabama factory worker and Pay Equity advocate Lillie Ledbetter stood beside President Barack Obama today as he signed the Pay Equity Bill which is named for her.

Veteran advocate for Equal Rights for Women Senator Barbara Mikulski, (MD), wiped away tears when he handed her one of the pens he used to sign the Bill.

President Obama said, "it is a simple fix to assure a fundamental right" and then mentioned his grandmother and what this Bill would mean for his daughters.

Lillie Ledbetter later said, "I have spent the last two years actively advocating for Pay Equity to address the wrong that was done to me. " She mentioned that this Bill would not mean one penny to her but that it would mean a lot to the future for her daughter and grand-daughters.

I watched the TV screen, listening to them and remembering my time working as ERA Campaign Director for the League of Women Voters. In 1981 the Advertising Women of New York developed an advertising slogan and ads to support the ERA. The slogan:

Nothing Can Protect Your Daughter Like the Equal Rights Amendment.

How smart they were! Then and Now.

It is a great day - a wrong is made right.

Brava Lillie Ledbetter!

Tea Time

Barefoot Gypsy is really Juli, a mother, artist and herbalist, who lives a natural life in the Ozark Mountains. She says, "I was raised by a healer."
Juli greets you on her blog with NAMASTE - a sanskrit greeting meaning "My spirit honors the spirit in you."
While I was enjoying her writing and photographs I noticed that she has another site - for herbal teas.
There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminshed by a nice cup of tea.
Bernard-Paul Heroux
Healing House Teas. Lovely pictures and descriptions of teas she formulates and packages herself from herbs she grows on her homestead.
I am a tea-lover so I could not resist.
I ordered
Zen Thin: " to support wright loss and promote health"
3 Sisters Tea: " to comfort and warm the soul"
and Blessed Tea: "for a gentle feeling of peace and well-being"
They arrived promptly, carefully packaged and delicious.
I am loving them.
Remember the tea kettle -
it's always up to it's neck in boiling water
but it keeps singing.


Winter Story

Here is a story.

A Snow Day
You have heard me. I wanted snow. I wanted to be snowed in so that I could hunker down. Well I got my wish. Yesterday it snowed. Schools were closed. A SNOW DAY!

Great! In these days of cell phones and battery fired laptops you don't even have to be as worried about having the power going out. Keep doing what you are doing. And I did.

Worked steadily, watching the lovely snow falling outside the window next to my desk. Whittled my list. That may be one down-side to working at home. You are always at work - well never mind. You don't have to dress-up, and the kitchen is near-by.

Today its iced.
CNN reports ice across the country.
Treacherous road conditions, accidents, deaths.

Ice scares me.

Snow is white and soft and lovely.
It brings a special quiet beauty to the world.

ICE is crystal clear, cold and deadly silent.
Ice can be a killer.

Yesterday flu showed up - uninvited.
Jim was the first to fall to this full-vested intestinal demon.
Then Karen - sick all night.

A gh r r r r r r r r this is WINTER.

No, no, that's not what I meant.

Drat. Another old story proved out.

Be careful what you wish for.


Mama and Neil Gaiman

Did you see the announcement today ? Article in the Washington Post. (when you reach the Post page - search "Neil Gaiman" - that does it.

Neil Gaiman has just won the Newberry Prize for
The Graveyard Book.

I read it several months ago and loved it. But I did not tell you what led me to read it.

One afternoon when Jim and I were driving back from PA we listened to a fascinating NPR radio radio interview with author Neil Gaiman. Talking about his new book, The Graveyard Book. Gaiman told about taking his small child to a near-by graveyard to play twenty years ago and how, watching his youngster, the germ of the idea of a child being raised in a graveyard began to jell. Nobody Owens or Bod is the boy in this book who is raised by a community of ghosts.

I had to get the book into my hands as quickly as possible. It reminded me of Mama.

Mama had told me from my earliest memory that she was "raised in Elmwood Cometary."

Mama's daddy died when she was about 18 months old. Granny was devastated. Everyday she took Mama with her and drove to Elmwood, parked at the grave and sat with Gus Keasler - every day for eight years .

As Mama grew she was more and more restless on these long visits and Granny let her get out of the car. Mama had the run of the marble garden. She climbed over the statuary and eventually read the tombstones. She knew where everyone was buried. She could lead you right to anyone that she or Granny had known. She could tell you about them.

Several years ago our son Jim and his family went to visit Mama. She asked him to drive her out to Elmwood for a visit. Once they were parked she led them through the grounds, telling him stories, introducing all the family.

When I mentioned it to her she said - " Of course I could do that. I was raised in Elmwood Cemetery."

When reading Gaiman's book I enjoyed and admired the language, the images, and I liked the characters in the ghostly community. This book was written with adolescent readers in mind but, like Harry Potter, adults know - its for us too.


Full Day

Storytelling in Focus:
1. Just completed the first session of the new Working Artist Mastermind Group organized and led by Sean Buvala in which a group of storytellers from across the country will work together by phone for two hours once a month for a year. Very exciting start-up session complete with assignments and personal goal setting. I am really glad to be a part of the process.

2. Scrapping It: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Adjoa Burrows and I start a new 10 week art/storytelling workshop with 18 middle school students tomorrow . The workshop will focus on environmental preservation - and we are planning to use primarily scrap materials, I met with Gabrielle Morcate, the school's art teacher, today and she is very enthusiastic about the theme and our project ideas.

3. Birthing a new story. February 15 is the first public performance of my new work, Pushing Boundaries, an hour program. I have been working on it for a year. I thought it was in good shape, almost ready - until two weeks ago when I listened to the tape twice and then ripped it up and started again.

I know, I know. It sounds crazy but that's how you make art. Often the first take on something is not the best way to tell the tale. This is the story about my years as a feminist activist for women artists and for the Equal Rights Amendment. My war stories. When I listened to myself talking with a local newspaper reporter this morning about the story I could hear that I was on firmer ground.

This past week-end Elizabeth Ellis talked about the importance of telling a new story - speaking it out. A story happens between the storyteller and the listener. Those people "listen" the story from you. I know that! I needed a wise woman to remind me.

Today I arranged to tell the story next week in a Women Studies class at American University and three days before the performance in a Women Studies class at Rockville Campus, Montgomery College. I am grateful to the Professors for their interest and their welcome.

So, the pressure is on. A rush of adrenaline and palpitations feel familiar. Maybe this is what I need for a proper birthing of this baby.

Family Pride - it's worth mentioning
1. Word from our son that the Supreme Court unanimously supported the case he has worked on for ten years!. WOW! And, would you believe it - he is out of the country on the day they announce it.

2. Tuned in to CNN just in time to see my cousin's daughter, a White House national reporter, toss out the first question to the New Press Secretary at the First White House press conference of the Obama Administration. She is so professional, poised and on-point - a young woman who knows her business.

I admit it - I am tired tonight. It has been a full day. Well, actually a full week. Not complaining - its all good. You can be happy and tired. But I was very glad we had good left-overs for a quick supper tonight.

Maybe this week we will finally try out makiing bread in the new oven.

There were a few flakes of snow today - almost a flurry. I have hope.


Storyteller at Work


Elizabeth Ellis performed One Size Fits SOME last night at The Seekers Church. The event was a gathering of friends for the new storytelling theater, Telling Moments.

Its a tough story of the slights, hurts and occasional funny bits of being obese in our society where fashionable body size is often unattainable by other than the very ill or anorexic.

The story would be hard to listen to except when it is told by a masteful teller like Elizabeth Ellis. She has a gift for trodding difficult territory and tending to the story and the audience. A rich storytelling experience.


Our storytelling workshop reconvened at 9 am this morning.( L - r: E Ellis, Jane Dorfman, Virginia Keeping, Linda Fang)

During the day we heard four tellers tell a story and then receive iinsightfuil comments and coaching from Elizabeth.

Around the edges Elizabeth talked about issues related to a good storyteller repertory. How to categorize a story for its emotional impact, how to arrange an emotionally satisfying line-up of stories for a concert, and finally how to review a film, or event of popular culture for themes that might be relevant to your own storytelling work. She always gives storytellers something to think about that will help strengthen their work.

Jim and I dropped her off at BWI for a flight to NC for the next stop on her storytelling circuit. Before she sleeps in her own Texas bed again she will touch four states, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah, and Tennessee. The storytellers she encounters along that path will be benefit by her having been there to teach and tell stories - - and to sit-a-spell.

This is going to be a hard week. I am either teaching or telling stories everyday this week, And I have to stay focused on the new story for my program February 15. Whew!


Storytelling Front and Center

Three Beautiful Things
1. Jim stepping in and helping with hosting the storytelling workshop. And, he made delicious vegetable soups to feed the tellers.
2. Eight storytellers working with a Master , Elizabeth Ellis - good stories and insightful coaching.
3. That special inner richness you get from listening to stories.


Storyteller in Town

Elizabeth Ellis arrives from Texas this afternoon. Jim and I are looking forward to seeing her. I am hosting the workshop and Elzabeth will be our guest - one of our favorites to have sit-a-spell time with.

Elizabeth is going to be plenty busy once her plane sets down at BWI. She is here to conduct a two-day intensive storytelling workshop Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday night she will give a story concert. It features her funny and touching story, One Size Fits SOME.

This is the pre-view storytelling event for the new storytelling theater, Telling Moments, which is being organized in the Washington, DC area. Storyteller Linda Fang is spear-heading the effort. I am on the board along with storyteller Jon Spelman, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-no-Tec.

Linda and I have produced the Saturday night performance. We are really delighted - its with in a hand full of tickets of being sold-out.

You know I can't resist posting on my blog so you may hear something about the "doins" over the week-end. And then - you may not.

Til then, Hugs, everybody.

storytelling it is, A Keeper

My friend Claudia ia a keeper, too. Her archivist tendencies are strong. Like me she never throws anything away. And, I am really glad! Grateful!

Yesterday Claudia stopped by. "I found this in a box of papers and I want you to have it." She handed me a folded yellowed paper. " Wait til you read it. You say, "I want to be a storyteller" - and look at you - you did it."

I unfolded the sheet of paper covered with early computer printer typescript. She had printed out and kept an email I wrote to her on January 30, 1996 from Jim's old Compuserve email address.

The important papragraph: " ALSO - I hope I told you how much we enjoyed the Storytellers Theatre event with the woman using her life as the stry. I would never have known about it if you had not sent me the flier. She was terrific.

I want to be a storyteller - it has everything for me, talking, family history, some dramatics, and performing. IN a way, I have actually started in that direction already - with the genealogy entertainment.

"Claudia, it was you - you sent me there. You are the deus ex-machina"

The woman I saw that night was storyteller, Milbre Burch.

When I sat next to her at the storytellers dinner at the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival last September I told her about that evening and how she had inspired me. I think she thought I was a bit dotty - but it meant a lot to me to tell her. Afterall her performance opened my eyes to possibilities and set me on a new path.

But it seems now - that the more important thank you goes to Claudia who gave me the key for the door.

Let's tell this story right.


Second Chances

Second Chances

I guess Mama started crocheting in the 1970s. At one point she decided to make an afghan for each of her children and grand-children - those on the scene at the time. It was quite an undertaking. By the time she had to give up holding a hook and yarn she had made everybody one.

But families grow as we know. So later when Diane and Elizabeth became the center of my brother's life Mama was done with her crocheting and that seemed to close that subject.

Or, so we thought.

I am a knitter, a crafty-type. When Mama was going through left-overs, she found granny squares she had made but not used. She gave them to me. That happened about twenty years ago. I brought them back to Maryland and stashed them on the top shelf of a storage closet.

You already know that I hardly ever throw anything out so they languished safely on that shelf until a few weeks ago when we had to empty closets to prepare for the carpet installers.

Surprise. Inside a large Sweet n Lo box was an old plastic bag containing Mama's crocheted granny squares. I cannot take full credit for the inspiration for their next home. I am sure this is Mama's idea and she nudged me to do it for her.

When I called Diane, "Do you think Elizabeth would want these crocheted squares Mamam made?" her answer "YES!" told the tale.

Yesterday I wrapped the box in brown paper and took it to the Kensington Post Office. Mama's hand-work is on its way to Georgia - a gift to Diane for Elizabeth. Sent with love from Mama through me.
When I told "my ladies" at the retirement home about finding the squares - about sending them to Diane and Elizabeth - that darling Nadine burst out - "Ellouise, this is so wonderful. They have a second chance - a second chance to be an heirloom."


Getting Back to Normal, Two Birds, the Golden Cycle.

Going Home

About a dozen coaches were parked on the drive at the National 4-H Conference Center on Connecticut Avenue. When Jim and I drove by very early this morning white steam poured out the exhausts as they warmed up getting ready to travel. Lots of people going home after the Inauguration.

Two Birds

A few birds were foraging in the cold.

This little woodpecker could hardly keep still flitting from one limb to another and then to the feeder and back.

A plump Starling, wearing his winter coat is hard to see -- love his camouflage.

The Golden Cycle

As we drove into our driveway we watched our neighbor drag this "golden cycle" to the curb and abandon it.
Sums up my love of exercise.


The Moment


Even though I was watching in the warmth of my office I was on the Mall in spirit.

It must have been extraordinary to be a part of the crowds that gathered.

Waiting and waiting for "the Moment."

Barack Obama taking the oath as the 44th President of the United States of America.

A mild wind ruffles the flag flying over the Capitol.

A remarkable day for the history books.

New Oven, Family History,

I know this is Inauguration Day - a major historic landmark in our country's history - but the very personal always comes first, doesn't it? So - -

TA! DA! New Oven is IN.

Daniele arrived right on the dot yesterday morning and within a very short time he had adjusted the cabinet opening and pushed the new oven in place.

After all the strum and drang about whether we could find an oven that would fit, or whether we could adapt the old cabinet opening without splitting the wood it was a seemingly easy solution --almost anti-climatic.

Yes, there still is a gaping hole underneath the oven but Daniele is making a new drawer to fit into that space. Once we remembered that the shelves inside all the cabinets are laminated to match the exteriors - it was a cinch. He has all the material he needs to make the drawer front match the cabinets.

Let's face it - the key to the solution is Daniele - a competent cabinet maker who thinks outside the box.

This whole oven-dilemma has proved to us yet again that most times the solutions are right in front of you if you cut the drama and think it through. Why, do we have to keep learning this life lesson?


Some years ago my dear Aunt Catherine put this old picture of Elizabeth Pyburn Grose into my hands for safe-keeping. Elizabeth Grose came to the US in the 1850s from London, England. On my father's side she is my great, great grandmother.

My Dad's younger sister Betty was named for her, Elizabeth Grose - their great grand-mother.

The new Elizabeth Grose, Aunt Betty's great-grand-daughter sits next to the original Elizabeth Grose. I guess that makes Eliza her four great granddaughter.

Yestderday my cousin Jim brought Eliza, his grand-daughter, over for a visit and I passed the picture on to the young namesake..

I am sure that's what Koki and Aunt Betty would want me to do - and it feels good. Passing along the history.

Must be something in the air about history on Inauguration Day.


Preview, Sweet Souvenir,

When he watches the Inauguration on TV in CA tomorrow I hope our grandson remembers the hot summer day when he stood on the balcony at the Capitol and looked over the Mall. That's what I love about living here - its taught me that every where you turn you can touch history, past, present, and future. All you have to do is open yourself to it.


When Jim and I went to the Holy Land more than ten years ago we bought this bottle of wedding wine in Cana. We planned to keep it for our 50th Wedding Anniversary. It gathered dust in a closet for twelve years. By the time our 50th rolled around it had darkened and I could tell it was thicker, probably unpalatable. But I could not bring myself to throw it away.

Until this week. My struggle with all the stuff in our closets has been a tough lesson.

It doesn't make sense to keep the bottle but we could have a "postcard" - a digital image. No, its not like holding the bottle, feeling its weight, cradling the bottle to connect with the afternoon we walked through the narrow streets of Cana. But a post card never is, is it? So, I soaked off the label - something to touch to remind me that we once had a real bottle of Wedding Wine we bought in Cana.

I guess the question is - why do things have such meaning for me? They are just things, right?

Not to me. I am one of those people who has an attic museum outlook - things have history. Could it come from living in Washington where the Smithsonian is the nation's attic.

No, that's too easy, too pat. I think its has to do with remembering and hoping to be remembered. Yep, that makes sense. These bits are my attempts at quilting life - my life.



It's started.

I am not one to go down to the Mall but I would have liked to wave to the historical train which carried Barack Obama and Joe Biden to Washington.

When I watched Obama's speech in Philadelphia yesterday tears were streaming down my cheeks. I was born and raised in the segregated south and was part of early integrated student gatherings in the 1950s. I have tried to follow Dorothy Height's admonishing - if people are missing in a room - ask why. I really never believed the first African American President would be elected in my lifetime. Living in history.

I cannot imagine how African Americans, especialy the Civil Rights activists, must feel during this Inauguration. Its the realization of a Dream.

You see Inauguration souvenir stands everywhere. This one was in the middle of Wheaton Plaza when I went to pick up my new glasses. The range of stuff is amazing from buttons, hats, key rings, shirts of all kinds, gloves, you name it they have put Barack Obama's smiling face on it. And people are buying it. CNN commentator Roland Martin said, "Barack is boosting the economy with his face plastered on everything they can think to sell."

I liked the design on this T-shirt. But no, I did not buy it.
I wanted to but I kept thinking about what I already have in my closets.

But I did not pass up a few buttons for my collection.

Small World. This woman from CA and I struck up a passing conversation as we walked away from the souvenir stand. "I came from California to be here for this. I would not have missed it. I will be downtown tomorrow." I could not resist. "Where are you from?" "San Francisco." I went on - "Our daughter lives in Lafayette." "Actually we live in Orinda.(a neighbor town to Lafayette) What's you daughter's name." I told her. "I know her." We did a minute about that and how and other local bits and we agreed, "Its a small world."


Happy Birthday, Alison, Domestic Report, Its January

Happy Birthday, Alison.
Since this picture of the young traveler on her first trip was taken, Alison has graduated from High School, entered college and just traveled to Central America on a college-sponored service trip. She arrived home last night in time to celebrate her 20th birthday with the family. We will hear the stories of her advenrures this afternoon.

In the meantime, sending hugs and wishing blessings on you.


What a handsome box!

Ta Da! This large intrusive cardboard box sitting in the middle of the dining room contains our new OVEN. Yes, we found one we hope will fit, with a few cabinet modifications. We ordered it without seeing it based on the specs - that was the crucial feature.

I love this box!

Its possible Daniele will arrive Monday morning to begin the installation - if he completes his other job today. Otherwise, our door bell will ring at 9:30 am on Wednesday and he will get started then.

New carpet - nice clean new carpet - means shoes begin to colect at the bottom of the stairs. I can deal with that.

The mess is retreating in the living room as we fill the closets again. And I am blocking out the fact that in March, as soon as I return from the Rogue Festival in Fresno, CA, I will be moving everything in my office and in this living room so that the carpet installers will return and we get rid of all the old brown carpet.

I really like the color of the carpet. It feels comfortable. Its a light taupe - sort of a mushroom color - fresh - and ofcourse clean. I mentioned to my daughter Karen that I really liked it - "Mom, you've had this color carpet before." No. Really? We argued a bit. She was definite.

I vaguely remember it. Well, OK, maybe. I called daughter Robin - she verified Karen. Hmmm? No wonder it looks familiar and I feel happy with it. Those were good years.

Now for the Real Life report:
Yesterday morning our bedroom felt like a freezer when Jim and I got up. Jim checked the thermostat. 53 degrees. The furnace was OUT! Did I hear a mutterings and "damns"? I could swear I heard Han Solo, "It's not fair."

Fortunately we have a service policy on the furnace. The repairman was out by 11 am. The blower had died during the night. Just a clunk and gone. We were asleep and never knew it. "It happens all the time." Within two hours the guy had installed a new blower. Warm air is good.

Karen called from the PA house. "Dad, the pipes are frozen." They were fine last night. She woke up and -solid as a rock. What a day. She spent the whole day nursing those pipes back to flowing.

Talking to my friend Lucy about all this and she explained what was happening. "Its January, Ellouise. Everything falls apart in January." OK. I get that! 14 more days.

Aren't red birds - cardinals - a symbol of good luck????

Stop hiding. Come out! Come out!


Close Encounter, Sweet Tea Crystal,

Close Encounter

Yesterday I stopped by the Audubon bird feeders expecting to see some birds feasting. Instead this urban doe was checking things out. She is so used to people and cars that she hardly noticed me when I stopped with my camera.

Deer in the neighborhood used to be a rarity. Not anymore. They roam our street, eat the plants in our yard, and often are a hazard on the roam. But I love seeing them. Bambi has come to live with us.

Sweet Tea Crystal

My sweet tea will have that old time taste when I pour it from this pitcher. When I just made a quick stop at the NAMI Thrift Shop Tuesday I saw this memory sitting on a shelf and I brought it home.

Tuesdays are the best days for shoppping at NAMI. That's the Senior discount day - everything is half-price if you have enough years to claim it. So this $6 pitcher cost me a whopping $3.

I bet this elegant beauty originally came from Woolworth's Five and Dime Store and cost 50 cents. When I began buying my own Christmas presents I bought my mother a treasure from the Woolworth glassware collection every Christmas. I loved that stuff.

I don't know if Mama really appreciated those offerings or not - but she kept them all. Even the Woolworth's decanter set with its fat little brandy glasses. Oh boy, I remember how I admired that set when I saw it on the high shelf in the Woolworth Store on Central Avenue. A ray of sunlight set those facets to sparkling like diamonds. I coveted it.

When Christmas came and it was still there I bought it. I had saved the dollar it cost. I carted the big box home, wrapped it and gave it to Mama for Christmas.

At 10 years old I did not really get it - that a fancy glass set to encourage imbibing was the very last thing she wanted around the house - especially in a house where imbibing needed no encouragement. Sorry Mama, just wanted to give you something pretty. To my memory it was never used; just gathered dust on her hutch.


Storytelling and Blue Birds

Telling stories today makes me feel like the blue bird of happiness is perched on my shoulder.

3 Beautiful Things

1. The children greeted me with smiles and "good morning Ms. Ellouise" at the Audubon Nature Pre-school this morning. "I have two stories for you this morning." A small blonde sitting at my feet said, "can you tell nine suns?" I hadn't planned to but how could you not honor such a request - we had three stories.
2. This afternoon was my monthly storytelling at a local retirement home. I really enjoy being with these folks, especially Nadine, a 91 year old woman who is slowed by her increasing blindness but her wits remain sharp and wise. She loves storytelling, takes in every word and nuance and always has a comment or addition that enriches the stories. We talked about telling personal stories and after I did a brief bit about how to think about making a story, Nadine leaned forward. "I've got it. I can make a story on that recipe - and it doesn't matter whether I can see or not - I can DO it." YES!!!! And she DID! A precious story that she has passed on to me.
3. Thinking about Blue birds brings back a nice memory. . When I was six years old a neighbor lady who enjoyed hearing me sing my one song, Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover, took me downtown to audition for the Saturday morning talent show which was broadcast on a local radio station.
The audition was in an office downtown but the performance was held at the Visualite Movie Theater on Elizabeth Avenue. I was over-joyed when they picked me.

That Saturday morning when I walked up on the stage in front of a theater filled with people to sing, Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover, the 1941 hit song from Great Britain, I was scared to death. My neighbor friend waved encouragingly from the front row beaming at her protege. I rose to the occasion, loving every second of it. Now, if anyone ever asks me, I will tell them that was my debut as a performer.

After that everytime I saw a picture of the White Cliffs of Dover
I thought of the Visualite Theater and my first time on a stage.

In 1975 Jim put me on a train at Victoria Station in London. We had had a delightful two weeks in Great Britain and I was going on to meet a friend in Paris while he flew home. This was my "seeing all the art" trip. I was excited that I would also actually see the White Cliffs of Dover when I crossed the English Channel on the ferry from Dover to Calais.

It was a beautiful day with white clouds scudding across bright blue skies and a stiff wind stirring up white caps on a very choppy sea. We had barely lifted anchor and moved away from the dock when I felt my stomach begin to rise and fall with the waves. I had no time to watch the gleaming White Cliffs slip away. Something else was taking all my attention.
Very unglamourously I spent most of the trip sitting on a step outside the ladies room so that I would be close to a toilet in case I was over-come by mal-de-mer and began wretching.
Ah me. Not the way I had planned it - not at all.


Silver Anniversary and 3 Beautiful Things

Congratulations Jim and Monica on your 25th wedding anniversary.
Sending love and hugs and wishing blessings on your next 25 years together.

3 Beautiful Things

1. Monica and Jim, ofcourse, and their lovely daughters, Juliana and Alison.

2. HURRAY! We found an oven to fit the cut out in our kitchen cabinet. Hopefully it will be warmed and ready for bread to bake by next Wednesday.

3. Seeing less and less stuff as we get it hidden in the closets again.


Good Morning Sunshine, My Oven, Homemade Bread

Looking through some old pictures this morning I came across these litle guys. I snapped them near Hearst Castle when we were on the Central Callifornia Coast two winters ago. I am charmed by how playfully happy they look.
I am also jealous. I do not feel playfully happy right now. I feel stressed.

Our oven died last week. This is an old house. The hole in the cabinet does not fit the wall ovens they make these days. Our friendly appliance guy and electrician who has kept the oven going for a few years shook his head and pronounced," It's time."

I twisted in the wind overnight. A carpenter is stopping by this afternoon to take a look. It may be time but this is not a good time. We have not put the closet stuff back yet.

But - we just bought a big bag of King Arthur Flour and a bread stone to begin making our own bread. How do we now make do with a loaf of Wonder Bread?

You see its like this.

Donald Davis drove up to MD from NC for the storytelling workshop at Susan's so he had space to bring a loaf of his homemade bread. It is delicious! That bread tastes as close to the legendary bread my great aunts made when I was a kid as any I have eaten. I could taste that memory.

When questioned, Donald told me he uses the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method. He explained everything carefully and told me to go to youtube.com and watch a few of the videos.

I was intrigued. I thought Jim would be intrigued too. Jim has mastered soups - I mean he has moved on to creating wonderful original soups. Maybe he would be interested in taking on bread making - particularly if it only takes 5 minutes a day and if as Donald said, "I sometimes throw in black olives" - Jim could make his own olive bread - which he happens to love.

That evening Jim and I cradled the computer between us in the bed and watched the You Tube videos. "You can just set up the computer and follow along", I said encouragingly. I saw a glint in his eyes. "Donald says its really a chemical reaction." Jim was getting interested. Then we scrolled down and watched the video - "easy bread" - don't miss it. Its a scream but the guy makes good bread. Jim too was hooked. I wish we had paid more attention to the utensils Mr. "Easy Bread" was using.

Next day we headed for White Flint Mall . First we stopped at Barnes and Noble and bought the 5 Minute Bread Cook-book. We read it over a cup of coffee in the coffee bar. We were getting serious about tackling bread-making. Then downstairs to Williams-Sonoma where we broke our credit card buying a bread stone, a wooden paddle to remove hot bread off the stone, a thermometer for inside the oven and a bench knife - an innocent looking implement sharp enough to take off several fingers. Its meant to scrape dough off the counter.

Next stop Safeway where they had the recommended King Arthur All Purpose Flour, coarse salt, and jar of dry yeast.

Jim was primed - ready to start his bread making the next morning.

At home, we were hungry. "Would you like some cheese toast?" I called to Jim downstairs.

I turned on the oven-broiler. Set the bread with thick slices of yellow medium sharp longhorn cheese on the rack. Thinking - tomorrow we will have real bread.

Nothing happened. No melting. No nice aroma of toasting bread. I twisted the dials on the front of the oven a number of times. Called to Jim to "check the breakers. I think we have blown a fuse."

Nope. Not that. Nothing happened. That bread and cheese would be sitting there still except I made it into sandwiches.

We called our appliance guy and left an urgent message for next day. You know the rest.

Chatting with my daughter Robin on the phone I told her what had happened. She choked on her coke laughing. "Have you figured up the cost of your first slice of bread?"

Gimme a break!

Come on, Robin. This is not about bread. This is about memories.

No price tag. Priceless.