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Sunday
Jul192015

A trickle-down system that actually works

Our elderly neighbors, the Shumakers, decided to move out of their single family home to assisted living and asked me if I would like to adopt their rain barrel. I'd admired it for years, thinking that it was a very clever and eco-friendly way to capture rain water for reuse. 

my new-to-me rain barrel Everyone in my development relies on well water. So, if I am using my well water to water plants and flowers, I am impacting everyone's future water availability from the same water table. The Shumakers positioned their rain barrel directly under their spouting. I was going to ask our handyman Harold (aka Tom) to saw off our drain pipe to fit the barrel until we got our first hard rain. Since we positioned it under the eaves of the house, water trickled off the roof and the gutter, keeping my rain barrel filled all summer long.

The rain barrel nearly filled up again after yesterday's showers.For the last two months, I haven't had to use the hose to water any flowers or plants outside. I've been using strictly rain water. There is a little spigot near the bottom of the barrel where you can hook up a hose, but most of the time, I just dip my watering can down in to fill it. My flowers certainly look lush and lovely.

               While Eastern Pennsylvania doesn't have the water shortage issues that the West Coast has, I still want to be responsible about my water use because it's the right thing to do. Trickle-down systems can actually work and make you feel good about your choices. Just not economic trickle-down systems.  Maybe Tom Selleck should invest in a few good rain barrels.

Saturday
Jul112015

When your garden offers up a zucchiNADO...

Zucchini I harvested on 7/11

This spring, I added well-seasoned manure to my backyard garden while turning the soil over. Nature then delivered a mother lode of rain and sunshine. I had a couple zucchini coming during each of the last two weeks, perhaps one squash a week, which was manageable. This morning I checked in on my garden to see what I could harvest, and I discovered . . . a zucchiNADO!

Yes, a ZucchiNADO. In one week.

My husband suggested he hold up one of the squash so readers could see how humongous these vegetables are.

One of the zucchini from my backyard garden as displayed by my husbandIn case you are wondering why they weren't harvested sooner, this is what the weather was like Thursday after work:

While I have a host of great zucchini recipes thanks to friends and neighbors, which I shared earlier on this blog, there's no way I can prepare and serve all this fresh zucchini before it spoils. Thank goodness I have another option. And chances are likely, you do, too.

I am donating this squash to a food pantry that accepts fresh produce which I located on the AmpleHarvest.org website. AmpleHarvest.org has worked fervently to identify food pantries that can accept fresh produce to supplement all the canned and boxed food typically donated.

I entered my zip code into their engine and found four pantries within a 15-mile radius that will take these zucchini. One is right down the road at a church in Akron.

AmpleHarvest is the brainchild of master gardener and self-described aging geek Gary Oppenheimer, who noticed how much food was left in a community garden he managed. He created AmpleHarvest.org to connect backyard gardeners with excess produce with food pantries, who were previously limited to canned and processed food only. 

If last year is any indication of this year, I can expect to have a green beanNADO and a tomatoNADO, too. I am determined not to let this food rot on the vine, but to give to food pantries to share with people who need food.

ZucchiNADO, you've (finally) met your match. And I'm feeling really good about not being wasteful with good, healthful food I've grown.

 

Monday
Jun082015

Rediscovering myself through the Wilkes Creative Writing Program

          

by Gale Martin MA'10

I don’t remember much from my baccalaureate days at Dear Old State in the 1980s, other than crushing on a clean-shaven preppy in a transformational grammar class who turned out to be a pit viper.

Somehow, amidst all the "sentence diagramming cramming sessions" and the eventual heartbreak following being dumped by said pit viper, enough cognizance remained to absorb Erik Erikson’s stages of development from Dr. Scraggly-Beard’s Educational Psychology class. They wormed their way into my impressionable undergraduate psyche like nightcrawlers into a compost pit. Twelve stages from infancy to death, if you have forgotten them or never learned them. 

Now that I am a 50-something, I find these stages are as striking and relevant as ever. Though I didn’t set a life course to advance to Generativity vs. Stagnation (for ages 35-65) that people encounter in midlife, I did indeed devolve into an intense middle-aged soul search, just as Erikson predicted.

I had been a devoted mom for 18 years. I’d put the interests of my family and my child first. And I had many interests and several talents I considered myself proficient in, earlier in my life. Now that my daughter really didn’t need me anymore, what was my value in the world? Did I have anything left to offer anyone? What was I going to attempt to be good at now?

In 2005, I learned that the niece of a close friend from high school wrote a novel that became world famous and was made into a ultra-popular major motion picture. Since little on up, I’d read loads of fiction but never thought I could write fiction, despite the fact that I was a first-class prevaricator.

I began writing fiction—my first novel, in fact—the end result of which was about as successful as someone playing violin in public who’d never taken a lesson. But I kept at it, and within five years, I had gotten as far as my self-instruction would take me.  I went to an information session for the Wilkes University MA/MFA Creative Writing Program and wound up reinventing myself in the succeeding years.

   

A book signing at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg

The Wilkes program got more taxing with each semester, and it started out plenty challenging, believe me, with those killer foundational classes. Writing an essay morphed into writing a thesis. Reading a piece of work out loud progressed to interpreting your own piece in Kirby Theatre to the entire Wilkes writing community. Writing a pitch for your book advanced to presenting a pitch to the screenwriting faculty to doing a polished pitch for a panel of agents and editors.

The progressively responsible challenges in the Wilkes program felled some of my colleagues. Couldn’t take the pressure of increased stakes or the deadline to complete a manuscript in one academic year. But not me. The program made me stronger, more confident, and more committed to literary success.

An instore display at the Wise Owl Book Store, West Reading, PAI published three novels since graduating from the Wilkes program and have four other fictional works in progress. I’ve obtained hundreds of reviews—laudatory and blistering— and done dozens of author events.

Presenting at the Reading Public Library on a fiction panel with fictionistas Chris Hinz and Mary Beth MatteoI no longer ask myself what I'm attempting to be good at as I age. I’m a writer. A decent one, whose books have been read by thousands and treasured by hundreds. Simply put, I wouldn’t be where I am without the Wilkes University Creative Writing program.

Wilkes helped this middle-aged mom rediscover what she had to offer the world. No doubt the Wilkes' afterglow will carry me through to Erikson's final stage of human development—old age—with gusto and, perhaps, a surprising amount of dignity.

* * *

A special shout-out and hearty congratulations to the wonderful Wilkes Faculty, all of whom helped me become the writer I am today in his or her own unique way. Heartfelt thanks also to my talented and generous cohort-- MA Class of 2010!

 

P.S. I'll be reading in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center theatre on the Wilkes University Campus on Tuesday evening, June 23, along with these talented Wilkes alums: Lori Meyers, James Craig, Amye Archer, Ginger Marcinkowski, John Koloski, Laurie Lowenstein, Salena Vertalono-Fehnel, and Sandee Gertz

 

 

Tuesday
Apr142015

Two tickets to a new Broadway show could be yours!

 

A brand new comedy opened on Broadway last week: Living on Love, a hilarious new show about music, marriage, and celebrity. 

In a nutshell, Living on Love tells the story of celebrated diva Raquel DeAngelis. When her husband, the fiery and egomaniacal Maestro Vito DeAngelis, becomes enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his long-delayed autobiography, Rachel retaliates by hiring her very own—and very handsome—ghostwriter to chronicle her life as an opera star. Sparks fly, silverware is thrown, and romance blossoms.

Living on Love features veteran performers Jerry O'Connell (Sliders) and Anna Chlumsky (My Girl and Veep.)

Renée FlemingIt also stars opera legend Renée Fleming, who in 2014 became the first classical singer to perform the National Anthem at the Superbowl. This is Ms. Fleming's Broadway debut, and she has been reviewed in the role as magnificent. In fact, I'll be reviewing the show on my Operatoonity.com site after I see the show this weekend.

So, here's where you come in. You can win a pair of tickets to a performance of Living on Love on a date of your choosing (see performance dates here) by entering the Rafflecopter drawing below or leaving a comment on this post that explains why you are the perfect person to win these tickets.

One winner will be chosen on April 20. So don't delay. Enter today: 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

 

Saturday
Apr042015

'Pot pie fill you up!' Uptown Funk, Amish style

Last fall, Bruno Mars hit the "Dancing with the Stars" stage donning a head full of hair curlers to sing what would become my favorite dance anthem since "Thriller" called "Uptown Funk." 

Watching the video is even more fun than listening to the song itself.

Apparently, lots of others thought so too, which led to Dark Lord Funk You Up (Harry Potter video parody) and the ingenious Uptown Passover video by the a capella singing group Six13. 

I, too, have been known to make light of my own heritage, specifically my father's PA Dutch gene pool. Grace personified, let me tell you.

So, here are the lyrics for my parody of "Uptown Funk" based on my rich and deeply impactful cultural experience living in PA Dutch Country.
 

Chicken pot pie, Amish style. Photo credit by Bob Gowtowski, Flickr, Creative CommonsPot Pie Fill you Up (or Uptown Funk Amish style)

ACH! 

This song’s about Plain cooks
With Plain looks, they’re no yuppies
This one's for those hausfraus
Who milk cows, and drive buggies.

Buyin’, fryin’, lard up in a skillet
Cooks canned ham in iron pans
For breakfast, she serves millet.

Too hot (hot pan)
Grab the hotpad outta the cupboard, Anne
Too hot (hot pan)
Go fetch the fire company, Dan
Too hot (hot pan)
Say Donnerwetter but don’t say d*mn
Too hot (hot pan)
Keeps bees to make her own honey. Ach, du lieber!      

Fried scrapple hallelujah (whoo)
Pepper cabbage hallelujah (whoo)
Bacon gravy hallelujah (whoo)
‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
It’s real pot pie and we don't use crust.

Don't believe me kumm eat
Don't believe me kumm eat
Don't believe me kumm eat
It’s real pot pie and we don't use crust.
Eens, zvee, drei, vier

Halt. Vait vonct!peanut butter schmear
Fill my cup, put some Schenk’s cheese in it
Amos, hitch the mare!
If we make pies, we’re gonna draw flies
Faster than peanut butter schmear

Too hot (hot pan)
Grab the hotpad outta the cupboard, Anne
Too hot (hot pan)
Go fetch the fire company, Dan
Too hot (hot pan)
Betsy, say Donnerwetter but don’t say d*mn
Too hot (hot pan)
Keeps bees to make her own honey. Ach, du lieber!

Schnitz hits you hallelujah (whoo)
Potato filling hallelujah
Red beet eggs hallelujah

‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
‘Cause Amish cooks gon’ give it to you
It’s real pot pie and we don't use crust.
Don't believe me kumm eat

Don't believe me kumm eat
Don't believe me kumm eat
Fimf, sex, siwwe, acht 

. . . Before we boil this chicken
Let me roll out some dough

Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Froogewadde, pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Nein, zehe, elf, zwelf

Take white flour, don’t sift it
Roll the dough out like a big biscuit
Grab a butter knife and cut noodles
Slow cook the whole kit-and-caboodle

It’s real pot pie and we don't use crust
Ains, zvee, drei, vier
Fimf, sex, siwwe, acht
Nein, zehe, elf, zwelf

Eens, zvee, drei, vier
Fimf, sex, siwwe, acht
Nein, zehe, elf, zwelf
Dreizeh, vatzeh, fuffzeh, sechzeh

Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up (Froogewadde)
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up (Froogewadde)
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up
Pot pie fill you up (Froogewadde)

ACH!

(Coming soon, to a theater near you: The Pot Pie Fill You Up music video!)